It could be said that two of the most significant pillars in Asian pop culture that has penetrated to a global scale, are Japan and South Korea. From Japanese manga and anime, to Korean smartphones and electronics, to their music industries, this tandem has got the world hooked. But underneath this cordial cooperation in entertainment still remain scars of the past, when Korea was a Japanese colony that fought back during World War II. Any reminder of this past hostility – comfort women for instance – could set Japan and South Korea at odds. K-Pop group BTS learned this the hard way.
According to ABS-CBN News, a planned television appearance and performance of BTS this Friday on TV Asahi in Japan, was cancelled before shooting in the wake of a social controversy that turned some Japanese fans, normally under the thrall of the internationally famous K-Pop boy band, sour on them. A circulating photograph from last year of BTS member Jimin showed him wearing a shirt with the depiction of an atomic bomb explosion, alongside historical slogans used by the Korean independence movement against Japan during World War II. What was worse, the picture was dated August 15, 2017, the traditional Korean celebration day of the end of Japanese occupation in 1945.
Following upset comments on Japanese social media calling Jimin’s past fashion choice an insult, TV Asahi consequently released a statement to the effect that “BTS’s appearance scheduled for the 9th has been cancelled.” The network was frank in citing the surge of backlash considering the perceived anti-Japanese shirt image, as it evoked the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the Pacific conflict and World War II in its entirety. TV Asahi added that they discussed the intentions of the shirt with BTS’s record label.
Geographically located between Japan and China, the Korean peninsula has been historically and culturally shaped by its two neighbors, through both peaceful interactions and military occupation. Japan controlled Korea twice, in the 16th Century and the early 20th, the latter of which saw them annex and rule the peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945. Korea was liberated by American forces in the south and Soviets in the north, leading to division which would eventually lead to another war and an ongoing flashpoint of international tensions even today. Some bitterness persists between Koreans and Japanese due to this history.
Following the cancellation of their appearance on Japanese TV, BTS also released their own statement about the matter, on their official website. It reads, “We apologize for disappointing fans who were looking forward to this. BTS will continue their efforts to connect with fans on stage and also through music.”
Images: Japan Times and BBC