Images show Oxford Union debate on meritocracy, not 'Chinese student claiming K-pop is Chinese'

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A series of images has been repeatedly shared in Korean-language social media posts that falsely claim the pictures show a Chinese student at the University of Oxford arguing that Korean culture is "inherited from China" and therefore K-pop is part of Chinese culture. The images in fact show a student debating against meritocracy at the Oxford Union in January 2022. Footage of the debate shows the student did not make any mention of Korean culture or K-pop.

"Chinese international student is schooled on reality," reads a Korean-language Facebook post shared here on February 17, 2023.

Attached to the post are 11 composite images -- all featuring the same two pictures that appear to show a woman wearing traditional Chinese dress making a speech.

Korean-language text at the bottom of all 11 images reads: "A Chinese international student during a presentation on the 'pop culture industry' at Oxford University."

Each of the composite images also contains a different caption which purports to translate what the woman said.

The captions on the first three images say the Chinese student argued that Korean culture is "inherited from China" and therefore K-pop is a part of Chinese culture.

The captions on the following images say a South Korean student interrupted the Chinese student and refuted their argument -- an action that was supposedly applauded by other students in the classroom.

Screenshot of the false claim shared on Facebook, captured on February 17, 2023

The post reflects a rapid rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea in recent years, with The Korea Herald newspaper reporting in August 2022 that Koreans' dislike for the neighbour appeared to be reaching a peak.

The Korea Herald reported that major issues triggering anti-China sentiment included clashes over kimchi and hanbok, with South Korean users accusing China of attempting to claim Korean culture as its own.

The same images were also shared alongside an identical claim on multiple South Korean forums here, here and here, as well as on YouTube here, where it has been viewed more than 271,000 times.

Comments on the posts indicate some users were misled by the posts.

"The Chinese Communist Party destroyed their own culture so now they copy others," wrote one user.

Another wrote: "Even with a brain like this, these Chinese students study abroad. They must be jealous and mindful of Korea's success."

The claim, however, is false.

Oxford Union debate

A keyword search on YouTube led to a corresponding video published by the Oxford Union -- a historic debating society in the city of Oxford -- on January 30, 2022.

The video shows Oxford University student Sharon Chau opening a debate on meritocracy.

In the 12-minute video, Chau delivers several arguments against meritocracy, primarily revolving around the powerful influence of wealth, rather than skill or hard work, as a determinant of success in contemporary society.

"Personally, I firmly stand on the side that there is no merit to meritocracy," Chau said in her opening statement.

She makes no mention of pop culture, K-pop or South Korea in her speech.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the two images shared in the false social media post (left) and matching frames from the Oxford Union video (right):

Screenshot comparison of the two images shared in the false social media post (left) and matching frames from the Oxford Union video (right)

The debate on meritocracy featured several other speakers, whose speeches were spread over seven videos available on the Oxford Union's YouTube channel here.

An analysis of the videos showed that none of the speakers made any mention of pop culture, K-pop or South Korea.