BTS held their first Love Yourself performance at a sold-out Tokyo Dome on Tuesday (Nov. 13) amid growing criticism of the group for certain wardrobe choices and stage props, which the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles called out as “mocking the past.”
During the performance, vocalist Park Jimin addressed fans vaguely about the situation, thanking them for attending and reflecting on how far the group has come over the years. Park, known mononymously as Jimin, is at the heart of controversy due a shirt he wore that depicted the United States’ dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki alongside text celebrating Korean liberation from colonial Imperial Japan in 1945.
“We had our first showcase in a small concert hall in Tokyo,” Jimin reflected, according to BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment, recalling the group’s first 2014 show in Japan. “I was surprised at how our [fanbase] ARMY who were in Japan at the time knew us and had come to see us. We’ve come a long way to be here at the Tokyo Dome.”
“It saddens me to think that not only you ARMY, but many people around the world must’ve been surprised recently because of the many circumstances,” he added. “I believe there will be many more opportunities for us to meet each other. I won’t be able to forget my first Tokyo Dome performance with you today. I’m so happy to be with you guys, ARMY. I hope you feel happy seeing us too.”
Photos that showed Jimin donning the shirt in question allegedly in celebration of Korea’s Liberation Day began circulating over the past few weeks, and was acknowledged as the reason behind the cancelation group’s performance on TV Asahi’s Music Station. Several sociopolitical situations between South Korea and Japan may have also played a role in the cooling of tension that led to BTS’ appearance being canceled. K-pop, which is immensely popular throughout Asia, regularly becomes a pawn in East Asian political conflicts, such as how last year’s THAAD crisis between South Korea and China saw Korean artists unable to perform in China.
Earlier on Tuesday, Big Hit Entertainment issued a statement in Korean addressing the allegations made by the Wiesenthal Center regarding several allegedly problematic instances throughout BTS career. In its statement, Big Hit acknowledges, explains, and apologizes for situations where the band members were seen in apparel that featured problematic imagery, including Jimin’s shirt and RM wearing a hat with alleged Nazi iconography in a photo shoot, and said the company had reached out to the Center and contacted and apologized to both Japanese and Korean atomic bomb victim associations.
Big Hit also addressed alleged Nazi and/or fascist imagery featured in a performance with Seo Taiji of his 1994 hit “Classroom Idea,” explaining that the creative elements were parodying totalitarianism, not praising it. “Classroom Idea” is a heavy rock song that grew to fame for its criticism of South Korea’s education-focused society.
Update: Big Hit Entertainment’s English translation of the statement. Read it here:
Big Hit Entertainment’s Position on Issues Recently Raised Involving BTS
Recently, a number of issues have been raised involving BTS, the artist group of Big Hit Entertainment (hereby referred to as “Big Hit”). We would like to express our positions on these issues as follows.
1. Among the issues recently raised involving BTS, Big Hit has reviewed the following issues:
-that a Big Hit artist has worn an outfit depicting an image of an atomic bomb,
– that a Big Hit artist was shown with headwear displaying a National Socialist (Nazi) symbol as part of a magazine photo shoot in the past,
– and that Big Hit artists took part in a performance during which flags depicting motifs reminiscent of Nazi symbols were featured and wielded.
2. Big Hit’s position on the issues outlined above are as follows.
– In all activities involving BTS and any other artists associated with our company, Big Hit does not condone any activities of war or the use of atomic weapons, is adamantly against them, had no intention of causing distress or pain to anyone affected by the dropping of atomic weapons, and we will continue to adhere to these principles.
– In all activities involving BTS and any other artists associated with our company, Big Hit does not support any organizations or groups oriented towards political extremism and totalitarian beliefs including Nazism, is against all such entities and activities, had no intention of causing distress or pain to anyone affected by historical events and incidents by being inadvertently associated with such organizations or groups, and we will continue to adhere to these principles.
3. Regarding the issues recently raised, we would like to offer the following apologies.
– Regarding the wearing of the outfit containing image of atomic bombing, as previously explained the incident was in no way intentional, and although it has been verified that the outfit had not been designed originally to injure or make light of those affected by the use of atomic weapons, we would like to offer our sincere apologies not only for failing to take the precautions that could have prevented the wearing of such clothing by our artist that inadvertently inflicted pain on anyone affected by the use of atomic weapons, but to anyone who may have experienced distress and discomfort by witnessing the association of our artists with imagery related to atomic bombings.
– Regarding the wearing of a hat displaying a logo reminiscent of Nazi symbolism, again as previously explained the incident was in no way intentional, and although all apparel and accessories used during the photoshoot had been provided by the publication conducting the shoot, we would like to offer our sincere apologies for inadvertently inflicting pain and distress to anyone affected by totalitarian regimes in the past by failing to strictly review the clothing and accessories that our members were made to wear, as well as to anyone who may have experienced distress and discomfort by witnessing an association of our artists with imagery reminiscent of political extremism.
– Nevertheless, Big Hit bears all responsibilities for not providing the necessary and careful support to our artist that may have prevented these issues, and we would like to make clear that our artists, especially due to their extensive schedules and the complexities of on-site conditions, are in no way responsible for any of the issues outlined above.
4. Regarding the issue of the performance of which concerns have been raised, we would like to provide the following explanation.
– The images being cited in recent discussions are part of a performance commemorating the legendary Korean artist Seo Taiji in 2017 in which Big Hit artists took part, and specifically from the part of the performance of “Gyosil Idea” (classroom ideology) that levies social criticism against rigidly standardized education.
– The flags and images were creative elements completely unrelated to national socialism, and the core message of the performance itself was criticism against restrictively uniform and authoritarian educational systems.
– The performance is in no way associated with National Socialism as some observers have alleged, and in fact it should be noted that the performance includes creative elements that are designed to direct criticism against these very elements of totalitarianism.
5. Big Hit will do our utmost to address the issues recently raised.
– “To heal and inspire all the people of the world through our music and artists” is the core reason for the existence of Big Hit Entertainment. It is our challenge as well as responsibility to carefully take all the necessary considerations that reflect our increasingly diverse and inclusive world, and we are doing our utmost to do our part in ensuring that this diversity and tolerance takes firm root in our community and among everyone around us.
– We will carefully examine and review not only these issues but all activities involving Big Hit and our artists based on a firm understanding of diverse social, historical and cultural considerations to ensure that we never cause any injury, pain or distress to anyone.
– We would like to again offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who has suffered pain, distress and discomfort due to our shortcomings and oversight in ensuring that these matters receive our most careful attention.
6. Big Hit is taking the following steps to ensure that these issues are properly addressed.
– Big Hit has contacted associations in Japan and Korea representing those affected by the atomic bombings to provide explanations and apologies to anyone who may have been distressed or in any way affected.
– Big Hit has delivered a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that has brought some of these issues to attention, in order to offer explanations and apologies to anyone who may have been distressed or in any way affected.