Netflix’s ‘Narco Saints’ sparks controversy for casting Taiwanese actor as gang leader, portraying Suriname as ‘narco state’

·2 min read

Netflix’s hit South Korean crime thriller “Narco Saints” has sparked online controversy for casting a Taiwanese actor as a gang leader and for portraying South American country Suriname as a “narco state.”

Chinese social media users claimed it is insulting that “Narco Saints” cast Taiwanese actor Chang Chen as a gang leader who is not afraid to chop off traitors' feet and hands.

South Korean social media users participated in online discussions by pointing out the rising cases of piracy in China as the country has no access to Netflix.

The hit show, directed and co-written by Yoon Jong-bin, became the No. 1 non-English Netflix show with over 62,650,000 views between Sept. 12 and 18. "Narco Saints" was widely watched in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, to name a few.

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Meanwhile, Suriname – a country in South America where the series takes place – expressed plans to take legal action against the Netflix series’ producers for portraying the South American country as a “narco state.”

Suriname no longer has the image that emerges in the series or no longer participates in these kinds of practices," Foreign Minister Albert Ramdin said in a statement on Sept. 12. “Whether the practices presented... are true or false, it's creating a negative perception. The whole world sees these things, so this is not good.”

The Suriname government is also reportedly considering to submit a diplomatic protest with South Korea’s government over the show’s portrayal, Ramdin said.

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Following the controversy, the South Korean embassy in Suriname advised Korean residents living in the country to stay vigilant.

We assume Korean residents in Suriname must be greatly concerned due to the airing of the drama Narcos-Saints. Your safety is our greatest concern, and therefore the embassy will do its best to ensure your safety," the South Korean embassy wrote on Sept. 13.

Narco Saints,” which is now streaming on Netflix, features a star-studded cast that includes Ha Jung-woo and Park Hae-soo, the latter of whom has also appeared in other hit Netflix shows such as “Squid Game” and “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area.”

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Featured Image via Netflix Asia

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