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Why target BTS?

Nov 13,2018
MIN KYUNG-WON
The author is a popular culture news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

After Japanese television network TV Asahi canceled a scheduled appearance by global K-pop sensation BTS on its flagship music program “Music Station” last week, the group was also cut from participating in Fuji Television’s “FNS Music Festival” and NHK’s New Year’s Eve special “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” The sudden cancellations come as a surprise considering that the group kicks off their first dome concert tour in Japan today and has sold a total of 380,000 tickets for their upcoming shows in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.
The explanation the networks gave for canceling BTS’ appearances is based on reports from far-right Japanese media that the group is engaged in anti-Japanese activities. They picked out a T-shirt that Jimin wore in the past and a tweet made by RM on Liberation Day. The T-shirt had an image of an atomic bomb on it and RM wrote, “I am thankful to the independence activists. Long live Korean independence.”
Japan is simply trying to find faults. Jimin wore the T-shirt a year ago. It is more likely that Japanese networks are making an example of BTS because of the anti-Korean sentiment in Japan over the Supreme Court’s decision on wartime forced labor victims of imperial Japan last month. Because K-pop is popular around the world, BTS became a target.

In fact, the Korean wave in Japan is entering a new phase. While it was directly hurt after anti-Korean rallies in 2012, the third-generation pop idols have reignited the boom. BTS became the only foreign musicians to sell more than 500,000 albums in Japan last year, going double-platinum, and girl group Twice was the first Korean musicians in six years to appear on “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” TVXQ returned after military service and sold more concert tickets than any Japanese musician, selling 1.28 million tickets this year alone.

Foreign media has viewed the actions by the Japanese TV networks unfavorably. Billboard reported that Japan has made efforts to limit the popularity of Korean groups, adding that “Japan had seemingly struggled to balance the popularity of Korean artists compared to its domestic acts.”

So much has changed from when actress Kim Tae-hee received murder threats in 2012 and singer Lee Seung-cheol was rejected from entering Japan in 2014 over the Dokdo issue.

BTS fans, known as Army, have launched the hashtag #LiberationTshirtNotBombTshirt on social media. Fans are working to correct misinformation by translating and sharing comments like, “When a Holocaust memorial is not considered anti-Germany and Independence Day in the United States is not seen as anti-England, why does Japan claim Koreans celebrating independence anti-Japanese?”

BTS became successful globally with the message, “Love Myself.” Culture should no longer be a scapegoat for politics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 29