Project Anti-Disguise
  September 22, 2004 01:59 PM
October 18, 2002
Costume protests heeded in O.C.

Several local stores stop selling a 'Kung Fool' Halloween outfit deemed offensive to Asian-Americans.

By KATHERINE NGUYEN
The Orange County Register

Several Orange County retailers have stopped selling a slant-eyed, bucktoothed, Asian-caricature costume after a nationwide protest waged mostly through e-mail prompted the manufacturer to halt distribution.

The "Kung Fool" costume, which includes a headband on the mask that has the Chinese character for "Loser" on it, sparked outrage from Asian-American groups. More than 7,000 people from across the country signed an online petition at yellowworld.org and demanded an apology from costume manufacturer Disguise Inc. Disguise Inc. on Thursday sent letters to major retailers like Wal-Mart and Party City announcing the Poway company would no longer produce, market or ship the Kung Fool costume and encouraging the stores to send the costumes back for full credit. "(Disguise) apologizes to any group or individual who may be offended by the (costume's) design," the company said in a statement. "No insult or offense was intended against any race, ethnicity or individual by the sale of this product."

Santa Ana-based Halloweenshop.com, which sells hundreds of costumes online, yanked Kung Fool off its Web site Thursday. The site began offering Kung Fool in July for $33.99, and fewer than a dozen were ordered, said Halloweenshop.com owner Scott Peters. Peters said he was surprised at the backlash but decided to stop selling the costumes "rather than become a target of the controversy."

Wal-Mart issued an order to all its stores early Thursday morning to pull the costumes.

Several Party City stores in Orange County did not carry the costume, but at the Irvine location Thursday a store employee said seven were available for purchase at $24.99 each.

Henry Yee, president of the Chinese Citizens Alliance of Orange County, said he will ask friends to visit their nearest Wal-Mart and other retail shops to make sure the costumes have been removed.

"We don't need that to upset anyone," said Yee, who lives in Huntington Beach. "This is not good taste. It's terrible, the stereotyping. It's unforgivable."

The Kung Fool controversy comes six months after Abercrombie & Fitch pulled T-shirts with slant-eyed figures in conical hats under the slogan, "Wong Brothers Laundry Service Two Wongs Can Make It White." Asian-American groups protested, saying the T-shirts were racist. Karen Shibe of Anaheim said she felt compelled to sign the online petition against the Kung Fool costume.

"I couldn't believe it," said Shibe, 40. "I was shocked that something so obviously offensive didn't raise any red flags throughout the different levels of people at the company."

Elbert Oh, founder of yellowworld.org, credits the Internet for helping to spread the word so quickly.

"Disguise Inc. did the right thing by responding to our demands," Oh said. "But the fact that this costume was created in the first place in this day and age is very disturbing."


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