How “Backstreet Rookie” Became The Most Controversial Kdrama Of 2020- Should It Be Defended Or Criticized?

Published Categorized as K-Dramas and K-Movies

It’s not often that you hear a kdrama getting backlash from Koreans and international fans for its content, but “Backstreet Rookie” has become one of those rare kdramas that drew a lot of controversy.

Many people aren’t aware of what had transpired for this to happen, and today, I am here to discuss why “Backstreet Rookie” became so controversial across the board.

Note: this article will include reactions from Korean and international fans.

The source material

“Backstreet Rookie” is based on a webtoon that was rated 19+ and for a family drama during a timeslot that’s usually reserved for such, many fans had worries about adapting this webtoon into a drama.  

The webtoon was already controversial among netizens for romanticizing romance with minors, while the webtoon was graphic and had many 18+ scenes, the drama adaptation toned it down a lot, but still, many fans had reservations about adapting such a controversial webtoon and questioned why Ji Chang Wook and Kim Yoo Jung would sign on for such a project.

Dal Sik’s character

Many international fans found issues with this particular character in the drama. Dal Sik is seen not only culturally appropriating black culture but also portraying those who have dark skin as dirty, with flies flying from the dreadlocks and odor coming out of the character.

Various international viewers have attempted to contact SBS regarding the matter to explain why the character is offensive but haven’t received a response yet.

There is also another particular scene between a Nigerian man and Dal Sik character that got a lot of backlash from international viewers.

Check out the scene below:

The problematic kiss scene

In the first episode of “Backstreet Rookie,” Kim Yoo Jung’s character which is portrayed as a minor early on in the drama reaches out to kiss Ji Chang Wook’s character out of the blue.

The scene rubbed many fans the wrong way and it ended up receiving a lot of backlash on SBS online bulletin board as well. Many people questioned why this scene was inserted into the drama like that.

The overly sexually suggestive content

Before we begin discussing why this became an issue, its important to point out that public Korean channels have a lot of guidelines to adhere to.

Back when the drama was promoted ahead of its release it was promoted as 15+ and a ‘family drama,’ this in turn confused a lot of people when they tuned in to check out the drama. Many people found the content closer to 19+ than to 15+.

The shooting angles for the young female characters gained a lot of bad press as well, the cameras photographed female students from down to up in a manner that many found problematic. It was accused of objectifying teenage girls.

In another scene, Choi Dae hyun (Ji Chang Wook) goes to find Jung Saet-byeol’s (Kim Yoo Jung) house only to accidentally get arrested for prostitution. The scene shows a woman wearing a maid uniform and a grown man in a gown watching him get arrested.

And in another one, Dal Sik (Moon Suk) who plays the role of a webtoon writer is seen drawing figures of naked women; his scene shows his character moaning bouncing up and down while drawing his webtoon. The drama also featured drawings of nearly naked women during his scenes.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission committee member Kang Jin Sook criticized the drama for objectifying women and treating them like a commodity, she questioned whether the drama could be enjoyed together with the family. 

What now?

“Backstreet Rookie” has received 6,384 civil complaints, a shocking number of complaints according to the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KOCSC), they stated that the show received the greatest number of complaints in the last year and is one of the shows that received the greatest numbers of complaints as well.

But despite the rough start, “Backstreet Rookie” recently achieved its best ratings to date with its 8th episode. A lot of what made the show problematic has been toned down by the drama producers aside from Dal Sik’s character which continues to receive backlash from international fans.

It was also revealed that after many complaints, the controversial scenes of “Backstreet Rookie” were edited out of reply VOD services.

Should It Be Defended Or Criticized?

Some fans have ditched “Backstreet Rookie” due to its problematic content and racist undertones, while others continue to defend the show and the actors’ pick labeling those who raise an issue about the drama ‘haters’ who are trying to incite controversy.

But who is right? And when does criticism become too much?

It’s up to the individual viewer and that’s because many of the issues people found with the drama are valid critiques regardless of whether you personally feel offended or hurt or disturbed by them. 

What do you think of the controversy surrounding “Backstreet Rookie”? are you watching the drama or not?

Whats your reaction to this article?

By Jass K.

Hi, I am Jass k. I discuss some of the hottest currently airing kdramas on this site in form of reviews an/or recaps, join me in the discussion~


  1. hey guys..wake up!!we are now on 21st century…the show did not purposely intended to harm all the viewers.the actors are intertainers..which means they want us viewers to be intertained not to be offended.don’t be si harch/bias upon making decisions..transparency must be done accordingly.hopefully our appeal will be read fairly.

  2. I am not Korean but from what I know I can understand why some scenes are seen as racey to them even if it wouldn’t be considered such in western societies. I think they should up the rating a bit. However I hate to see Dal Sik’s character . I’m Jamaican where I have many rastafarian friends and they are nothing like how the drama is portraying them. I was so excited to see a rastafarian character in the previews but the flies in the hair is so insulting and they always show him as dirty and stinky which is such bad representation.

  3. Firstly, we’ve seen far more dirty character in many other dramas than tat of dal sik in backstreet rookie ,why can’t you people just accept it as a character, if dal sik character was played by any other Asian actor, would you guys even find it as an issue…let me tell you , f you’re thinking tat they’re showing balck culture as dirty means, it’s just tat your mind is dirty bcoz there’s no bakck n white culture in world, I belive there’s only humanity in world n tats the only culture exits, seceondly, is tis your first tym seeing a school going character kissing ?? I mean isn’t it too common in k-dramas ?? And tat accidently running into a different room , I just understand wat is there tat made u feel overly sexual suggestive scene, whatever the rest things are I belive they’re tryna show wts reality n I’m sure they’ve not even shown half of the reality yet, being known it all, why making such fuss ??

    1. First of all, if you’re not part of the black people community it is not your place to speak.
      Second of all, Dal Sik’s character is (in the first place) normalizing cultural appropriation (look at his hairstyle) and he mentioned JERKING OFF to drawings of women while creating his 18+ webtoon??? Do we have to normalize SEXUALIZING and MAKING FUN OF THE BLACK PEOPLE COMMUNITY?? As I am not black myself, I do not speak for black people, BUT as a non-racist person, I find my place talking and educating people on matters that are not nearly as okay.

    2. It CANNOT be accepted as JUST A CHARACTER because it is portraying black people the wrong way! South Korea is filled with people that are ignorant of Black culture, and this drama ONLY makes Black people look dirty and sexual when there is A LOT to Black people that they don’t know! You have NO RIGHT to tell Black people how to feel on this topic, and if you’re black, then you’re part of the reason others see Black people as the ‘lesser’ person.

  4. Guys nobody is saying the drama is trying to offend people. Even though it’s not trying to, it is. It said its family-friendly and it’s not so they should rate it higher. Also, Dal sik is just as problematic as it gets. He’s not problematic bc he’s dirty, he’s problematic bc it’s insulting to black people. Honestly, he’s just a koreaboo but for jamaica, so as a Jamaican, I don’t mind. But the flies coming out of his hair are just too much. Very disrespectful I feel as though they are saying black people are dirty because they have dreads or bc they don’t wash their hair every day. FYI different hair has different needs. If you are not black, don’t even say anything bc ofc its not gonna offend you.

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