Song Ji-a, the breakout star of Netflix’s viral dating program Single’s Inferno known for her glamorous style, has admitted to wearing counterfeit designer items on the reality show.
“I sincerely apologize to everyone who was disappointed and hurt because of me,” she stated in a handwritten note that was posted Monday on Instagram.
YouTuber and influencer Song, who is known as Freezia online, has a materialistic social media persona that focuses on high-end fashion and lifestyle content. She’s part of the “geumsujeo,” or “golden spoon,” culture, which refers to a person born into the top 0.1% of the South Korean population in terms of wealth.
After the release of Single’s Inferno, fans began discussing on forums whether some of the clothes Song wore on the show — a knit Chanel logo top (estimated $2,400), a Marine Serre–style dress ($1,100), a pink Dior logo top ($600), and Van Cleef & Arpels earrings ($7,500) — featured small discrepancies in color, density, and pattern compared to the authentic items.
Then Song confirmed the rumors with her Instagram post.
“I apologize once again for all the circumstances that have occurred due to infringing on designers’ creations and ignorance of copyrights,” she wrote. “As someone who has a dream of launching a brand, I will seriously recognize and reflect on the controversial parts.”
Fans have been divided in their response, with the overwhelming majority of Korean-language users maintaining that they felt deceived and misled. “It’s not okay to buy fake items themselves… most counterfeit sellers are involved with criminal organizations,” one fan complained. “You did something like this just to boost your self-esteem,” wrote another. “Single’s Inferno is broadcast all over the world.”
That anger stems in part from a large cultural difference, says Courtney Park, 25, a Korean American social media agency owner who posted one of the first translations of Song’s apology and explained the situation on TikTok.
“South Korea has an overwhelmingly conservative culture, and the idea of lying to people is very much cause for outrage — in addition to supporting the counterfeit industry,” Park told BuzzFeed News. Plus the culture is highly image conscious. “It’s not unusual to go to a department store here in leggings after the gym, but if you were to do that in Korea, it would certainly affect how much service or attention you receive in the stores,” Park said.
Song carefully cultivated that material-based influencer image, both on social media and in Single’s Inferno. “She was the most ‘bling-bling’ and fabulous,” contestant Moon Se-hoon said in the first episode.
Comments in English, and larger international responses online, have skewed more in support of the thrifty queen. “Wtf didn’t know people had to apologize for that,” said one user under the same Instagram apology.
Park said she’s not surprised at how split the reactions have been, divided down the middle by language.
“There is a bigger emphasis on where you shop versus how you look for Korean content creators,” Park said.
One of the larger topics of conversation among those in support of Song is that fashion has long been an exclusionary and prohibitive industry, both in terms of knowledge and financial access.
Charles Gross, 26, a longtime luxury reseller and renowned fashion influencer on TikTok, agrees but says there are consequences for those in the public eye. “There are both social implications and ethical implications behind wearing counterfeit items on platforms like television,” Gross said. “The value in owning an authentic item is that, ethically speaking, you are paying for creative intellectual property, as well as for the skill and artistry,” he added, noting that it may impact Song’s ability to get brand deals later on in her career.
Park says the biggest loss overall is the destruction of Song Ji-a’s “young, rich and successful” brand. “I think it’s funny that some of the Korean comments I’ve read are concerned about how the houses, like Chanel and Dior, will feel. Really, I don’t think we should be worrying about them,” she said. “The controversy is more about culture than the clothes. For Ji-a, her allure wasn’t ever dependent on her clothes. But the clothes certainly helped.”