|Seen are online ads for Geisha Sushi & Steak House and Ebadom Jeju Island Korean BBQ that feature Japanese "geisha." / Screen captured from Jeju Island Korean BBQ's Facebook account|
|Ebadom CEO Kim Hyun-ho|
Ebadom, a Korean restaurant franchise specializing in "gamjatang," spicy pork spine stew, is in the hot seat for online ads that feature "geisha," Japanese women who entertain men through traditional art, dance and singing, according to industry officials, Sunday.
The franchiser said it was not involved in making the controversial ads, claiming its U.S. partner solely made them without consultation. But Koreans living here and abroad cast doubts on the company's hidden intention behind the ads.
The ads featuring Asian women wearing Japanese traditional costume and makeup included phrases, "Ebadom Jeju Island Korean BBQ" and "Geisha Sushi & Steak House," a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas that formed a partnership with Ebadom for its U.S. expansion.
A Korean news outlet wrote an article recently about the controversial ads, and angry Koreans began criticizing the restaurant franchise for using the image of Japan to promote Korean food.
Japanese internet users also began ridiculing Korea after reading the article.
Amid the growing controversy, Ebadom issued a statement.
"Geisha House, a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas run by a Korean-American for 40 years, is our partner that established a joint venture with us," the company said in the statement. "The controversial ads were made to promote Geisha House, and the restaurant used our name without consultation."
Claiming it was never involved in making the ads, Ebadom said it is considering taking strict measures against the untruthful report, for its investors, franchisees and customers.
The company added its U.S. subsidiary will open Chosun Hwaro Korean BBQ in February.
Korean consumers, however, said the explanation is nonsense as the franchiser claims it has never paid attention to its partner's ads.