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BTSCourtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

BTS accused of ‘mocking the past’ with atomic bomb t-shirt

This isn’t the first World War II-related controversy the group have faced

BTS has been accused of “mocking the past” after the K-Pop group wore T-shirts that referenced the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organisation, spoke about the boy band’s ban from a Japanese TV show last week. BTS were abruptly pulled from a Japanese television network when it was discovered that one of the band members wore a top with a slogan that referenced Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945 accompanied by an image of a mushroom cloud. Japan surrendered days after the US dropped atomic bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“Wearing a T-shirt in Japan mocking the victims of the A-bomb, is just the latest incident of this band mocking the past,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper explained in a statement online.

Cooper believes that this behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg for the group, who he claims have a history of using inappropriate imagery for their performances and promotional material. The Rabbi referenced a photoshoot from 2015, where the group posed wearing hats emblazoned with the insignia of the Nazi SS Death’s Head units for a photo book. Similarly, in 2014, CéCi magazine released a special 20th-anniversary issue which depicted Kim Nam-joon (RM) in a camouflage army hat with a swastika on it. Around the same time, the group released images of them posing at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

Their onstage performances have previously raised eyebrows – when the group collaborated with Seo Taiji wearing black military style outfits and waving large flags red flags on stage, some felt they were “eerily similar” to Nazi symbolism.

“It goes without saying that this group, which was invited to speak at the UN, owes the people of Japan and the victims of the Nazism an apology,” Cooper continued.

“But that is not enough. It is clear that those designing and promoting this group’s career are too comfortable with denigrating the memory of the past. The result is that young generations in Korea and around the world are more likely to identify bigotry and intolerance as being ‘cool’ and help erase the lessons of history. The management of this group, not only the front performers, should publicly apologise.”

Edit: BTS’s management took to Facebook to address the recent controversy, and confirmed that it had sent a letter to Simon Wiesenthal Center and would be reaching out to “associations in Japan and Korea representing those affected by the atomic bombings to provide explanations and apologies.” 

They also explained some of the other allegations that had come to light including the Nazi hat photoshoot. “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.”

However, they denied that the boy band’s stage shows had ever invoked imagery from the far-right party. “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.”

The statement continued: “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.”