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SBS News, a major broadcaster in South Korea, provoked outrage after it removed Michelle Yeoh’s reference to “ladies” in its coverage of her acceptance speech at the Oscars.
Yeoh, who became the first Asian woman to win the best actress Oscar, said in the speech that her win offered a “beacon of hope and possibility” for “little boys and girls who look like me.”
“And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime,” she added, a reference to how women in Hollywood are often given fewer opportunities as they grow older.
SBS News edited out the word “ladies” in its news segment and translated Yeoh’s remarks to “you all” to exclude any mention of a specific gender. After receiving backlash from viewers, it later removed the segment it posted online and re-uploaded the segment to include Yeoh’s remark of “ladies,” according to Yonhap News Agency.
The broadcaster said it had no intention of distorting Yeoh’s speech but removed the word because of the “connotation surrounding ‘ladies,’ ” according to Korean media.
SBS News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NPR.
Dozens of comments flooded SBS News’ official bulletin board, describing the move as “censorship” and calling on leadership to offer an official apology.
The incident offers a glimpse into the tense atmosphere surrounding gender discourse in South Korea.
An anti-feminist wave, driven by men who claim they are now the victims of gender discrimination, has stigmatized talk on women’s empowerment. Many young women do not feel comfortable speaking up about women’s rights in fear of being labeled a radical feminist, even amongst their peers.
“A lot of women cannot talk about gender issues in public spaces, and they don’t even talk to their close friends, because they don’t know what their friends think about it,” Jinsook Kim, a professor at Emory University who studies online misogyny and feminism, told NPR in December.
Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia, has been vocal about her uphill battle in Hollywood as an Asian woman. Her Oscar-winning role in Everything Everywhere All at Once was initially written for Jackie Chan with Yeoh as his wife, she told Fresh Air last year after the film’s release.
“When [people] think ‘superhero’ … it’s always the guys who seem to be first in line for it,” Yeoh said. “Why is it that we older women cannot be the superhero?”