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Korean BBQ restaurant Char Kol accused of cultural appropriation

A pop up Korean BBQ restaurant in Philadelphia is stirring controversy after opening with Japanese decorations, Sapporo Beer and exotic drink names.

The mixing of East Asian cultures by restaurateurs Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari is only part of the controvery, according to Korean American Hemi Park who stood outside the restaurant protesting its opening.

“To see the same White people who gave me a hard time about being Korean now taking advantage of and profiting off my culture and food in this manner without employing Korean staffers — it feels like I’ve been robbed of my background,” Park told Philly Mag. It feels like Korean food is only cool when White people do it, but when we do it, it’s not cool. It’s not trendy.”

The controversy has taken on a life of its own on social media with many commenting on Char Kol’s Instagram page.

“Living in LA I wish I could deliver proper Korean BBQ to you all,” one commenter posted. “I miss Philly but this needs to fail asap. Someone please open proper Korean BBQ restaurant.”

“Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures ARE NOT accessories and if you’re going to open an Asian restaurant….consult Koreans to develop your menu, hire Koreans to design your restaurant, and do the real work to create an authentic restaurant,” another wrote.

Another accused Char Kol of blocking critics and not willing to change, but some defended it.

“Everyone needs to calm the hell down,” said one.

“As a Korean American I wish I lived in Philly. Love the ambience and the food looks delicious,” wrote another.

The restaurant defended itself to the Inquirer saying is concept is not to be authentic Korean, but “rather an appreciation of the cuisine.” It has since removed the Japanese lanterns and renamed the drinks.

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