Extra! Korea

May 12, 2011

Restaurants, companies pay for positive reviews & repress negative ones

I’ve explained the concept of “reviews” to my students. I would always add that in foreign countries, reviews are useful because people write both good and bad reviews. In Korea, however, they are not, because every restaurant that is reviewed on TV gets a thumbs up and an enthusiastic “Wahhh! Mashisseoyo!” (“Wow! It’s delicious!”).

I’ve always figured that it was either because the TV station didn’t want to make anyone lose face, or because of Korea’s ridiculous libel laws. (In Korea, you can sue someone for libel even if they tell the verifiable truth. For example, let’s say that Mr. X is a thief who robbed you blind, and you write in your blog, “Watch out for Mr. X. He’s a thief.” Mr. X can successfully sue you for libel, even if you present documents showing that he was convicted for theft and served prison time.)

It turns out that restaurants pay TV companies for positive reviews.

In order to make the documentary [“The True-Taste Show”], Kim [Jae-hwan, a former MBC producer] opened a small restaurant of his own in Ilsan, Gyeonggi, and recorded his attempt to get featured on television shows.

Kim’s restaurant was featured on ‘‘Live Show Today” on SBS earlier this year. In return for that, he had to give 10 million won ($9,090) to a broker and the broadcasting station. It took 9 million won for the restaurant to be featured on another show “Find! Delicious TV” on MBC, and all true-life incidents are described in the film. Kim shut down his restaurant after it was introduced by a couple of shows.

According to the documentary, food shows are no more real than television dramas or comedies. People are hired to sit down and show two thumbs up when asked how the food is.

Remember those ridiculous libel laws that I described above?

Broadcasting stations are considering suing Kim.

Fortunately, Kim is not backing down.

“I’m ready to be sued because I think it’s better to bring this issue to court,” Kim said.

“The True-Taste Show” will be released sometime this month.

Now that is a documentary that I would love to see.


What do you get when you cross a multinational conglomerate with the mafia? Samsung. Just ask Michael Breen if you don’t believe me.

A Mr. Ham bought a Samsung Galaxy 2 smartphone with his own money and, after using it for two weeks, he posted a negative review, “Nine Nasty Flaws of the Galaxy 2,” on his blog, which is hosted by Naver (which itself seems to be a bit of a bully). Samsung demanded that Naver remove the blog post, along with the over 1,400 comments it had received, which it did.

The same fate befell another blogger, Mr. Kim, after he wrote a post entitled “Three reasons why the Motorola Atrix is better than the Galaxy 2.” Ironically, Mr. Kim had been planning to write another post called “Three reasons why the Galaxy 2 is better than the Motorola Atrix.” According to Samsung, looking at two sides of an issue or having balance is unacceptable.

How dare they write negative reviews of Samsung products! Don’t they know that Samsung is Korea’s royal family? Bloody peasants!

An official from one portal site said, “Of the thousands of temporary deletion requests we receive per month claiming defamation, many are from corporations and politicians.”

This indicates a system adopted on the justification of blocking invasions of personal privacy are also used more insidiously as a means for powerful groups to control online opinion.

So what does Samsung have to say for itself?

Regarding this, Samsung Electronics’ public relations office said, “The matter was in many ways a communication failure that arose due to insufficient understanding of the particularities of the Internet at the Galaxy 2’s marketing sector.”

“It’s a misunderstanding. You must understand our special situation.”

There is also debate about the fairness of review marketing. Most review marketing takes place with compensation exchanging hands. The problem is that this is rarely revealed, so the objectiveness of the review is easily lost. Some firms even filter out critical posts from the very beginning by getting prior confirmations. Recently, one mobile phone community was conducting a user review event for the Galaxy 2, with the phone being provided for free or at a discount based on the favorableness of the review.

[ … ]

The Federal Trade Commission of the United States has since December 2009 required bloggers to reveal if they received corporate support or payment when they write product reviews.


  1. I saw The True Taste Show at the Jeonju International Film Festival and I can honestly say it was the best film I saw there. It deserves to be seen, it deserves a wide audience in Korea and the telly addicts who enjoy the reality tv shows from the major networks should get a chance to see how these shows are really made.

    The saddest thing about this whole story is that if lawsuits go ahead then the public could be denied what may be one of the funniest, most insightful documentaries to have been made on Korean soil. If Kim Jae-hwan manages to show this film in theatres then I urge you to go out and see it. Spread the word and hopefully change bad practices in Korean television.

    Comment by Paul Ajosshi — May 12, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  2. I heard about the documentary, too. Really want to see it. Back in 2008, a chef was surprised when I paid for my meal. He said I was the first food blogger to not demand free food.

    Comment by ZenKimchi — May 18, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  3. The ultimate irony: if the filmmaker mounts a pyrrhic anti-piracy campaign against people sharing/downloading his movie, so it doesn’t reach the audience that needs to see it.

    Comment by Roboseyo — May 19, 2011 @ 12:19 am

    • Where is any anti-piracy campaign mentioned?

      Comment by extrakorea — May 24, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  4. hi!

    well, there is no surprise that most korean companies will buy their way to the top of CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.

    Hah! If any company in the US would buy CUSTOMER SATISFACTION from the customers, they’ll surely get sued!

    Anyway, speaking of ‘faking’, why don’t you try featuring an article about a Korean media fabricated 2PM’s single in Oricon chart by tampering its figures?


    Comment by roxyisferox — May 24, 2011 @ 7:41 am

  5. […] came across an article from Extra!Korea that restaurants and companies pay broadcasting companies for positives reviews by creating a documentary…. So far, again, I felt not surprised because, if you check watch Arirang, you will see ALL POSITIVE […]

    Pingback by Buying your way to the top is the cheapest thing a company can do « Roxy is Ferocious 4 Lyf — May 24, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  6. […] the upcoming documentary, The True Taste Show, in which the filmmaker alleges that restaurants pay for positive reviews on food review shows that are scripted? On Wednesday, MBC filed an injunction with Seoul Nambu […]

    Pingback by Documentary film The True Taste Show may be banned « Extra! Korea — May 29, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  7. […] Adding to the fact that Koreans are NOT welcoming to criticisms from natives and foreigners alike. When someone giving a negative feedback towards a certain product of any of Korean companies, or when someone satires a certain CEO of the likes of Samsung, they will be treated as libelous […]

    Pingback by Molybdenum Studio’s Japanese example, Balance of all Things and how it is relevant to other cultures « Roxy is Ferocious 4 Lyf — November 1, 2011 @ 2:54 am

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