22 October 2018
A controversial endorsement may hurt the careers of superstars Jun Ji-Hyun (left) and Kim Soo-hyun. Photo: Korean Star Wiki
A controversial endorsement may hurt the careers of superstars Jun Ji-Hyun (left) and Kim Soo-hyun. Photo: Korean Star Wiki

Korean love team reaps backlash of mountain spat

After the mega success of their television drama series My Love From The Star, South Korean love team Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun now find themselves in the middle of an ugly controversy that is threatening to wreak havoc on their stellar careers in entertainment.

First, they have been denounced as traitors by many of their fans, and now a Chinese company is threatening to sue them for more than a million dollars. It’s all because of a territorial spat that they probably don’t even care about. And all they did was endorse a brand of bottled mineral water.

The two movie idols, who played the lead roles in one of Asia’s most successful TV shows, may face a fine of HK$10 million (US$1.29 million) should they push through with their plan to break an endorsement contract with Evergrande Spring, Metro Daily reported Tuesday.

Kim and Jun had agreed to be celebrity endorsers of Evergrande Spring, a high-end bottled mineral water launched by Chinese real estate giant Evergrande. The deal was reportedly worth one billion South Korean won (US$9.8 million) for each of them.

But it triggered a huge backlash in South Korea. Evergrande Spring’s label says the water comes from “Changbai Mountain”, the highest peak on the border of the Korean peninsula and northeastern China. In South Korea, however, it is called “Mount Baekdusan”. Thus, a simple product endorsement sparked a heated debate over an old territorial dispute between the two countries.

Many angry compatriots started calling Kim and Jun “traitors”. Pressured by public wrath, the two issued an apology and offered to terminate their contracts with Evergrande.

The Chinese company, however, stressed that a deal is a deal, and it’s good for one year. If they want to break the contract, they must pay the default fine.

Could the Korean superstars now be wishing they live in another universe?

The territorial dispute has occasionally triggered protests from Korean tourists visiting the mountain, who insist that it is part of their country’s territory. In 2007, South Korea’s women’s speed skating relay team, who won the silver medal at the 6th Asian Winter Games in Changchun, the capital of northeast China’s Jilin province, held up a sign saying “Mt Baekdusan is Our Territory” during the medal ceremony. The Korean delegation later apologized, Want China Times reported.

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