TV Asahi Corp. said Thursday it had canceled a live performance by K-pop group BTS amid a furor over a member having worn a controversial T-shirt, said by some to celebrate the use of atomic weapons against Japan during WWII.
The incident tapped into the deep well of resentment that still roils relations between the two countries, more than seven decades after Imperial Japans defeat in World War II liberated the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule (it was subsequently divided into North and South Korea). Aug. 15 is still commemorated annually by both North and South Korea as Victory Over Japan Day.
The controversy erupted over photos of BTS member Jimin wearing the T-shirt, which commemorates the day the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. But the design, which has drawn flak from many Japanese, also includes a photo of an atomic bomb exploding over Japan.
@BTS_twt This is an atomic bomb t shirt dropped in Japan. It is a group that also works in Japan, so please have a little more consciousness. I am sorry just because I like Jimin and I am supporting bts. pic.twitter.com/xRm4tADLBs
Tokyo-based TV Asahi said it decided to call off BTS’s Friday night performance on its “Music Station” program, and has asked the band’s agency to explain the member’s intention in wearing the shirt. The broadcaster’s statement also apologized to viewers over the cancellation. Company spokesman Shinya Matsuki declined further comment.
For its part, BTS apologized in a statement to its Japanese fans for not being able to make the appearance, without elaborating.
Universal Music said it will continue to support BTS and confirmed that their appearance scheduled for Friday was canceled.
The A-bomb T-shirt was one of the top trending topics on Twitter Friday morning. ‘Music Station’ is one of Japan’s most prominent music programs, and one of TV Asahi’s main shows.
Some Japanese fans of the band expressed disgust on Twitter that their show was canceled over a T-shirt, while other users of the social network described the group as making light of the atomic bombings.
The incident comes as ties between Tokyo and Seoul are once again strained over historical issues. The latest controversy follows a recent decision handed down by South Korea’s Supreme Court that said Japanese firms can be held liable for forced labor that occurred before and during World War II.
Work by seven-member boy band BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, has reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart. The group has also collaborated with Japanese American DJ and musical artist Steve Aoki.