A Japanese TV channel abruptly canceled an appearance by Korean pop group BTS over a controversial t-shirt worn by one of the group’s members.
BTS, a massively popular K-pop group, may have just alienated a giant fan contingent in Japan.
The controversy started when BTS member Jimin wore a t-shirt favorably depicting images of atomic bombs being dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. That image is complemented by words celebrating the subsequent liberation of Korea.
Korea, both North and South, shares a fraught history with Japan. The country imposed heavy-handed colonial rule over the region up until its defeat in WWII, and relations are oftentimes tense. Those memories are indeed fresh in the minds of many Koreans, with cross-border hatred frequently popping up.
The cancellation was pretty rapid, with Jimin apparently not allowed to simply remove the shirt in question. You can see two shots taken showcasing Jimin in the shirt below.
At the time of writing, the shirt is still available for sale online in South Korea.
Most likely, sales of the shirt are growing following the issue.
But Japanese BTS fans quickly became irate after the images circulated online, calling the shirt an insult to the massive civilian casualties endured by the Japanese at the hands of the American bombing.
The shirt also appears to take some design inspiration from Kayne’s The Life of Pablo album cover, despite depicting different imagery.
The official BTS Japan Fanclub page soon posted an apology to their Japanese fans for the cancellation.
The Japanese TV company hosting Music Station reached out to the band to find out why Jimin wore the shirt and apologized for canceling the appearance.
A spokesperson for BTS declined to comment.
Music Station is a Japanese live program that could be favorably compared to TRL or Britain’s Top of the Pops. Live performances from artists around the world have performed, and plenty of Japanese stars have found their first success with the show.
Universal Music says it will continue to support BTS despite the cancelation of the Music Station appearance.
Korean fans have been expressing their support for BTS online, saying they view the shirt differently. One fan posting on reddit said,
“I don’t think Japanese citizens should be angry at other countries for being upset with Japan’s government. Japanese citizens should be angry with its own government for having given other countries valid reasons to be so angry.”