KTVU Offers Mea Culpa for Asiana Gaffe With Documentary Highlighting Korean Americans
Author: Steve Han
Posted: December 11th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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San Francisco 49ers President Gideon Yu, in the documentary, Success Makers.

To help mend strained relations between the station and the Korean American community, San Francisco-based Fox affiliate KTVU is airing a television documentary which chronicles the success of prominent Korean Americans.

KTVU was publicly humiliated last July when it erroneously reported racial slurs as the names of South Korean pilots of the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214 which crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, killing three and injuring dozens. The TV network produced the documentary after meeting with Korean American organizations and community leaders a number of times since the scandalous incident.

The Korean American Bar Association of Northern California (KABANC), led by its president Taewoong Koo, proposed the idea to air the documentary series to KTVU.

“[KTVU general manager] Tom Raponi apologized over and over,” Koo told iamKoreAm. “But there was a question about sincerity. It was hard to understand what verbal apologies really meant at that point. It wasn’t clear what actions can be made. They couldn’t undo what was already done. The community was really hurt by this incident.”

“We undertook an intensive effort to reach out to the Korean community after our mistake,” Raponi told iamKoreAm via email. “In those outreach efforts, it became clear that one of the most upsetting aspects of our mistake is that it accidentally repeated an ethnic stereotype that has been upsetting to the Korean people.”

After a series of meetings, the station accepted KABNC’s offer to encourage the station to repair its relationship with a large portion of its viewers, many of whom were upset with its negligent reporting of the tragic incident.

“The Korean community wanted the opportunity to present examples of its most successful citizens,” Raponi said. “We were open to letting them do that [for] our audience that was especially concerned by our mistake.”

But Koo emphasized that KTVU’s decision to air “Success Makers” should be more than a mere apology.

“The framework and viewpoint should be more than an apology,” he said. “When our kids watch this 10 to 20 years from now, we want them to feel proud that there was a public TV program that emphasized the success of public Korean American figures.”

“Success Makers” is hosted by Korean American TV host Yul Kwon, and features actor Daniel Dae Kim, who rose to prominence with his roles in Lost and Hawaii Five-0. Produced by Korean American producer Joon Lim, the documentary also interviews and highlights career achievements of Gideon Yu, the co-owner and president of the San Francisco 49ers, actress and cartoonist Lela Lee and philanthropist Chong-Moon Lee.

“One of the purposes was to let audience know who we are as Korean Americans,” Koo said. “There are certain stereotypes about us. We come from more diverse backgrounds. We’re more integrated with general society. There are a lot of successful Korean Americans, but they not only succeeded, but they did it by overcoming prejudice.”

The documentary was aired on KTVU for the first time last Sunday. KTVU’s satellite channel, KICU (Channel 36), plans to air it again on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. before airing it for the last time on Friday at 11 p.m. on KTVU. Although the station agreed to make the program available for viewing on its website, Raponi said the station doesn’t have the clearance for online or out-of-market airings as of Tuesday.

“We want this program to be more positive than an pology,” Koo said. “It wouldn’t be accurate to describe the program and the effort that went into it as something that was done to make up for the incident.”


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