BTS star’s A-bomb T-shirt: fallout spreads as Korean politicians back Jimin
- The K-pop musician’s provocative choice of clothes, which bore the word ‘patriotism’ and a picture of the Hiroshima mushroom cloud, outraged Japan
- But South Korean politicians have leapt to his defence
South Korean politicians are fanning the flames of a diplomatic row with Japan over a T-shirt worn by a Korean pop star that depicted a mushroom cloud over the city of Hiroshima, academics and analysts in Japan have charged.
They’ve decried the “celebration” of the atomic bomb attack that killed 125,000 civilians during the second world war as being in extremely poor taste.
The dispute broke out on Thursday, when Japanese broadcaster TV Ashai cancelled an appearance by boy band BTS after a member of the group was seen wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “patriotism”, “our history” and “liberation” along with an image of the cloud that towered over Hiroshima after the first nuclear attack in history, which took place on August 6, 1945.
The T-shirt triggered an outpouring of criticism on Japanese social media and an equally robust defence by South Koreans of the decision by the musician, named Jimin, to wear the provocative item.
The spate escalated over the weekend as South Korean politicians weighed in on the controversy.
“Did BTS spread false information?” asked Kim Jeong-hwa, a spokesman for the conservative Bareunmirae Party, The Korea Herald reported. “The picture on the T-shirt shows no hidden agenda but historical facts.”
Hong Ihk-pyo, a spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party, said it would be “inappropriate for Japanese broadcasters to rescind BTS’ appearance on the grounds of politics”. He also opposed the “politicisation of non-political exchanges”.
The Liberty Korea Party was more forceful, expressing “deep regret towards Japan’s intolerant cultural relativism and insular historical awareness”.
Hiromichi Moteki, acting chairman of the Tokyo-based Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, said the singer had exhibited “inhumane behaviour” and that politicians trying to score points with their domestic audience was “obscene”.
“Do they not realise what happened in Hiroshima?” he asked. “How can they celebrate something like this? How would Koreans feel if someone in Japan celebrated the 1.7 million civilians who died in the Korean war?
“And for politicians to celebrate the atomic bombing of a city just goes to show how stupid some people can be,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University, was indignant.
“It is hard to comprehend this way of thinking,” he said. “Especially when one considers that hundreds of Koreans who were living and working in Japan at that time were also killed in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Do their deaths mean nothing to these people?”
South Koreans’ reactions were even less comprehensible given their troubles with the nuclear-armed and unpredictable regime in North Korea, he said, adding that it appeared South Koreans had come to trust Pyongyang over Japan, a nation with which Seoul has had a strong working relationship for the past half-century.
“At least President Moon [Jae-in] has not made an insensitive comment on this issue,” Shimada said. “And I suppose that every nation has its share of insensitive and petty politicians; the best thing to do is simply ignore them.”