Global idol group, BTS is currently under fire due to a number of reasons that are political in nature. The musical group seemed to have found itself caught in the middle of an extremely sensitive and controversial historical issue.
Fans were surprised when the K-Pop group’s scheduled guest appearance on a popular Japanese music program was suddenly dropped, causing the boyband and its team to cancel their flights. BTS was suppose to perform live on TV Asahi’s Music Station on November 9th—but the TV station regretfully decided to postpone the boyband’s appearance after discussing with the band’s record label.
The issue started when a clip of BTS’ Jimin from last year showed the band member wearing a T-shirt called OURHISTORY Patriotism, which gained a lot of attention online around October and ultimately outraged many Japanese citizens and supporters. The shirt, which was designed by Lee Kwang Jae shows a photo of an A-bomb mushroom cloud (From the US atomic bombing towards the Empire of Japan); a scene where Koreans celebrate the independence of their country, as well as the words, “Patriotism,” “Our History”, “Liberation”, and “Korea.”
The Japanese broadcasting station unilaterally canceled the bts cast one day before and blamed BTS esp jimin
But, it’s a liberation shirt.
And Japan is a perpetrator, not a victim
The T-shirt is a T-shirt to commemorate the day when the victim, Korea, was liberated. pic.twitter.com/PoyRrQX8E2
— lovemaze (@lovemaze0613) November 8, 2018
Their management, Big Hit Entertainment has recently posted their position (in three languages) on the issues raised involving their main artist.
Big Hit bears all responsibilities for not providing the necessary and careful support to our artist that may have prevented these issues, and we would like to make clear that our artists, especially due to their extensive schedules and the complexities of on-site conditions, are in no way responsible for any of the issues outlined above… We would like to again offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who has suffered pain, distress and discomfort due to our shortcomings and oversight in ensuring that these matters receive our most careful attention. Big Hit is taking the following steps to ensure that these issues are properly addressed. -Big Hit Entertainment
The two pictures were never intended to mock innocent victims. In fact, the mushroom cloud is meant to represent the end of war among countries during the WWII; and the other picture symbolises the liberation of the Korean Peninsula on August 15, 1945 from the Japanese Empire (1910-1945). Those pictures have already been understood as common imageries of that historical event on history books.
As what Kim Jeong-hwa, a spokesman for the conservative Bareunmirae Party said; “The picture on the T-shirt shows no hidden agenda, but historical facts.”
However, this truth has been distorted and the problem has been magnified by people who are misinformed or those who may have ill intent towards the highly influential K-pop group, BTS and the Korean people in general.
Some netizens went on to express their thoughts on the issue.
Professor SeoKyungDeok said,
“The issue became a moment of imprinting the right fact that Japan was a war crime country for young fans all over the world. It’s because they felt a great fear of the global influence of BTS. They are so scared that those truth that they+ pic.twitter.com/nmCn9JobCN
— SUGAfull?슈쁠 (@sugafull27) November 10, 2018
They sell those shirts in Japan and Jimin wearing that shirt (from his Japan fansite) last year while his were on vacation, there were even other Idols wearing it at weekly idols.. So why bts apology!?! This is about their political issue in the past. pic.twitter.com/vK8pk6R1O0
— Lya (@LyaChimm) November 9, 2018
“BTS are, first and foremost, artists.
I believe it would have been good for BTS to appear on TV Asahi and encourage discussion of history and culture between two neighboring countries.”
“Music isn’t politics, but music can do things politics cannot.” https://t.co/tUDRtycagY
— mana (疲れた) (@kocchi) November 9, 2018
TV Asahi caved to the discriminatory protests of online right-wingers as anti-Korean sentiments rose after the forced labour issue* [3/4]
K-POP is not a tool for dividing people! The youth who promote Japan-Korea cultural exchange through music [4/4] pic.twitter.com/etalUq5tdr
— mana (疲れた) (@kocchi) November 10, 2018
The legendary South Korean singer, Kim Jang Hoon also shared his message on social media regarding the matter in high hopes of educating people about Korea and Japan.
Major media outlets including BBC have touched this in a significant way. Japan Times detailed the Oct. 30 verdict by the South Korean Supreme Court, ordering a giant Japanese steelmaker (Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.) to pay compensation to four South Korean victims. This has been a 21-year legal battle between the victims and the Japanese company. These wartime labourers were forced to work in its factories during Japan’s colonial rule (World War Two) over the Korean peninsula.
According to NHK, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that the matter should not have a harmful impact on relations between the two countries. On Nov. 9th, the minister expressed that he wants appropriate exchanges between Japanese and South Korean people, as well as the municipal governments in both countries to continue.
Nonetheless, the highly anticipated live performance of BTS on one of Japan’s biggest television network (TV Asahi) is still known to be postponed. The cancellation is largely believed to be an apparent work of the Japanese right-wing extremists. The soft power of Korean popular culture in Japan is a well-known debate topic from scholars to government officials. The Korean Wave in Japan has a long, sensitive story and Japan’s far-right nationalist party has been quite vocal of it’s hatred towards anything Korean.
Korea and Japan have long been in a conflict and confrontational relationship with each other due to the latter’s frequently brutal colonial rule in Korea for over 35 years—and Japan’s reflection, compensation, and apology about it.
Many issues between the two countries are quite known from forced labour, wartime sex slavery, apology for the invasion, Korea’s irrefutable territorial sovereignty over Dokdo (Takeshima Islands), to Japan’s continuous use of the rising sun flag—a flag used by the Japanese military during World War II and called as a “war criminal flag” (전범기) in Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Japan during his speech last March to stop making its territorial claim to Korea’s easternmost islands of Dokdo, which is claimed by Japan but controlled by South Korea.
“Dokdo is our land that was first occupied in the process of Japan’s invasion of Korea. It is our native territory,” the president stressed.
“Japan denying this fact is same as its refusal to reflect on its imperial invasion (of Korea),” he added.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe complained about a group of South Korean legislators’ visit to the disputed islands. The prime minister sees it as a move that is against the two countries’ goals of improving their bilateral relationship.
This issue involving BTS somehow correlates with the rising tensions within and between Japan and South Korea. Unfortunately, this is not the only controversy surrounding the artist these days.
Despite being involved in an issue that has led to several death threats, BTS has not made any other changes to their schedules and remains a force to be reckoned with, even in Japan with the support of their Japanese A.R.M.Y.
The idol group has won over global audiences with their hard work, personalities, and crafts. They are also promoting Korean culture around the world and has made their countrymen proud.
With a name that came from a Korean expression, “Bangtan Sonyeondan”, which means “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”; and a fandom called A.R.M.Y that rivals even those of the biggest celebrities known today—BTS continues to take over the world, shields itself well from destructive criticisms, and maintains a delicate balancing act.
BTS is a big threat to haters, but the band and its teams are inspirations not only to a lot of Koreans—but also to millions of international supporters around the world.