The Bangtan Boys (BTS), known as Korea’s leading boy band, is at the center of controversy. The controversy arose due to a t-shirt that one of the members, Jimin, wore. Because of it, Japanese TV Asahi Music Station recently decided to cancel broadcasting BTS in its show. The situation became worse, as an old photo of RM wearing a hat with a badge resembling a Nazi symbol resurfaced. Here, the rumors and truth about the recent issues are explained, based on the official statement from Big Hit Entertainment and an interview with the controversial t-shirt designer, Lee Gwang-jae on Nov. 13.
Q. Why did the t-shirt become so controversial?
A. During the world tour in the U.S. last year, Jimin wore a t-shirt that was made by the Korean fashion brand, ‘OURHISTORY,’ in 2016. The t-shirt was broadcasted at the BTS YouTube documentary series in March. The back of the t-shirt says, “PATRIOTISM,” “OURHISTORY,” “LIBERATION” and “KOREA,” all in English capital letters. What became controversial was the photos next to the words. One was a photo that depicted the U.S. atomic bombing in Nagasaki, the other showed people celebrating the independence of the country.
Q. Does the t-shirt have anti-Japanese sentiments?
A. According to the T-shirt designer, Lee Gwang-jae, this is not true. He explained, “The atomic bombing occurred on Aug. 9 in 1945. After six days, Korea was liberated on Aug. 15. The photos simply show the sequence of historical facts. There were no intentions, other than explaining about the history.” Regarding the t-shirt, Big Hit Entertainment stated, “We do not support war or atomic bombing in any way.” The designer and Big Hit Entertainment apologized and said, “We did not intend to hurt the victims of atomic bombing.”
Q. Does BTS support the Nazis?
A. Big Hit Entertainment emphasized that this is clearly untrue. It explained, “We received the controversial hat that has a Nazi-related symbol from a magazine company during the photoshoot. We would like to offer our sincere apologies for inadvertently inflicting pain and distress on anyone affected by totalitarian regimes in the past by failing to strictly review the clothing and accessories that our members were made to wear.”
The entertainment company also explained on another controversial performance of BTS with Korean singer Seo Taiji. Big Hit denied the pro-Nazi imagery of the flag performance at Seo Taiji’s 25th anniversary concert. It said, “The performance was in fact designed to make direct criticism against the uniformity of totalitarian education system.”
Q. Are all their broadcasts suspended in Japan?
A. This is also not true. Although the BTS appearance at the Fuji TV FNS Music Festival is being re-considered. It is not yet completely cancelled. Moreover, despite controversies, BTS successfully finished its two concerts in Tokyo, on Nov. 13 and 14.
The controversies of BTS have come to an end as Big Hit Entertainment gave an official statement and apology. The controversial situation required a calm observation to better understand the actual causation.