Birdman’s ‘F**king Kimchi’ Comment Sparks Controversy In South Korea

Birdman’s ‘F**king Kimchi’ Comment Sparks Controversy In South Korea

Congrats, Birdman! You won four Oscars. But you’ve also pissed off some people in South Korea, so there’s that.

In one scene, Emma Stone, who plays the daughter of Michael Keaton’s character, is asking what kind of flowers her dad wanted. Keaton’s character says something that “smells nice” or “something soothing.” Stone’s character responds, “It all smells like f**king kimchi.”

Picture: Extreme Movie

In that scene, the flower shop is owned by a Korean character. Historically, food has been used to mock cultures and races.

Kimchi, of course, is South Korea’s most famous food. It’s Korea’s national dish and it does have a strong smell. Online in South Korea, some movie buffs are taking the movie’s line as a slight against not only Korean food, but Korean culture.

Not everyone, however, is offended, with some people online in South Korea saying they will wait to see the film before making a judgment and others agreeing that, yes, kimchi has a strong smell.

The controversy has been covered extensively in the Korean media, including some of the country’s biggest news outlets like Yonhap News, SBS, The Korea Herald, Insight and The Korea Times. The movie won’t open in South Korea until March 5, but the clip has already been translated into Korean and is circulating online.

Picture: Extreme Movie

One Korean movie site pointed out how there’s also apparently a disparaging Mongoloid remark in the film.

Birdman‘s local distributor told The Korea Herald, “The line is only to depict the daughter’s neurotic character. There is no intention to belittle a certain country or a culture.”


  • Oh no something was said… quick everyone be offended! No? Ok a severe minority be and pretend to be a majority!

    • I’m sure that 2000 people out of a population of 50,220,000 counts as a majority these days… Twitter ya know!

      • I only came here to post my observation that Brian Ashcraft has posted two articles directly in a row where the articles’ thumbnail depicts a pretty girl walking down a corrible with people passing on her sides. Why? O? Why?

    • “Historically, food has been used to mock cultures and races.” If you went to Harlem and it smelled like fried chicken and watermelon, India/curry, asia/rice, and 9/10 people who heard you were not offended by it, would that make it okay because the majority weren’t? Whether a place did or didn’t smell like was mentioned, the issue is perceived racism. It’s a pretty big thing; for example it is considered offensive to address aboriginal people as “abo”(and you can find heaps of official government documents verifying this). Australian colloquialism often shorten words like barbeque to “barbie” or changes words to be more endearing(“Jacko”)… so shortening aboriginal to “abo” is not intended to be racist… but it’s the people who get offended who decide whether it is or not. With your comment, you are largely dismissive of people who are offended, and suggest that they’re the majority. How do you know exactly that it’s a severe minority, and how do you know they are pretending to be a majority?

      Emma Stone is awesome, and I’m not personally offended by the kimchi comment, and I believe you aren’t either; I just wanted to make the above point. I’m not trying to get into an argument with you. I posted on another Kotaku comment about my dislike of the choice of a black actor for the white character Johnny Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie as it wasn’t true to the source material, and my comments were moderated following that… I have no interest in that again. People should just respect and be mindful of other people’s races, gender, and sexual orientation.

      • It’s the internet where everything is blown out of proportion. One comment in a movie is not going to cause an international incident. KimChi *does* smell like crap, it’s got an incredibly foul odour, but it tastes great. Many foods do. I can be respectful of someones culture and say one of their foods smells like crap. Just because I say KimChi smells like crap doesn’t mean I’m saying Koreans suck.

        For clarification : =\= means DOES NOT MEAN/DOES NOT EQUAL.

        Vegemite to the world tastes like ass =\= Aussies are assholes.

        Haggis tastes like shit =\= Scotsmen are pricks.

        Dende oil makes things have a very strong flavour but smells like an unwashed armpit =\= Brazillians are morons

        The problem is the word perceived. Because ‘perceived’ means assumed. Assumed means there is a leap of logic and that leap of logic means there’s no factual basis. It’s ‘assumed racism’.

        So yes, KimChi smells like shit. It tastes good (to me). But I’ll stand by that line in Birdman.

        But I’m not racist, but it’s not really on me to prove a minority, it’s up to this article to prove that a large number of people are offended, because I’m not the one publishing this clickbait.

        My comments get moderated all the time, apparently I’m a very moderate guy on Kotaku 😉 lol

        • Yeah I agree that you can innocently mock the food without intending to mock a race, but it can just come across that you are: “Historically, food has been used to mock cultures and races.” It is a grey area that could go either way and largely depends on the context. It’s not as definite as this:

  • Is this the part where I say that I really don’t give a shit, because I really don’t know or care for south Korea’s bs with kimchi and this movie. This movie was great, so suck it.

    • Pity they didn’t get the original ending 🙁 Was supposed to cut to Johnny Depp a few years later or so, performing his own take on the play, with a Pirates 5 poster behind him. Sort of ‘the circle continues’… :\

    • I present to you the next host of ‘At The Movies’… lilee, and his review of Birdman

      Was shit movie anyway seriously.

      Truly, he channels the spirit and intensity of an Ebert or Siskel reborn.

  • *shakes head whilst sighing*

    That’s so obviously not racist. Not liking the smell of a particular food does not equate to racism against the culture from which that food comes. Not even remotely.

  • In the YTN News report, the reporter calls Emma Stone “Emma Watson” at 0:10? What the heck. Anybody else notice?

    • It doesn’t smell nice at all, tastes nice though. Like a lot of pickled foods, it’s definitely an acquired taste though.

  • if you have ever been around some one that eats a lot of Kimchi then you understand this comment. it’s not rude, or disrespectful it is the complete and honest truth. Kimchi is not something you eat, and take a breath mint to cover the smell. Kimchi oozes out of your pores for days. Mix in a bit of Soju and you have created a nice force field that will keep every one who isn’t accustomed to the smell at least 5 ft away at all times.

  • Assuming this is a SEVERELY RACIST set of comments, (which I don’t think they are) the character has a racist/abrasive element to him which he apparently passed down to his daughter, should we frown upon him as the audience? Sure. That character said a racist thing, he’s a bit of an asshole… in a movie where a lot of people act like assholes. He could have said something way worse but it’s still the character talking; depiction is not endorsement. There are many ways to discern if a film is promoting a racist sentiment or depicting an immoral character, your inability to read this is your own failing and not the film’s.

  • @losturtlel A million times this!
    I can’t believe that there is only one comment here that addresses the fact that the film is depicting characters. That everything that character says is a representation of that character, not the sentiments of the filmmaker/actor.
    How many movies depict bad characters as racist/misoginistic/dog killers? That is to build a world in a fictional story, not a soapbox for the screenwriter.

  • I didn’t get any racist tone from the movie, it’s like if she said “they smell like durians!” should Asian people in general be pissed off? Also, the character is meant to be a little unhinged; she’s fresh out of rehab and is being overworked and under-appreciated by her dad. I think the depiction of the Korean man in the convenience store scene of Falling Down was far less flattering.

  • It’s funny that Samsung funded the awards ceremony in Hollywood. They must have been very pleased or just not take it so seriously. In the larger context, the movie depicts a washed up Michael Keaton, hardly in Batman form. Did anybody notice that? It is such a super appealing role, I know I would never take it even not being a Hollywood actor and being offered it. Watch the movie and make up your own mind whether the entire thing revolves around that one superfluous line, a commentary on Los Angeles being a massive center of South Koreans. I’m sure they are all very pleased about it too. I thought it was simply unnecessary. If the line was “smells like effin tacos,” the reaction would have been different and worse. Food is smelly. Eat it and get over yourselves.

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