More Than a T-Shirt: BTS' Canceled Appearance Underlines Japan & Korea's Awkward Okay-Pop Relationship


Two of Asia's strongest gamers have had an extended & icy historical past in relation to leisure exports.

On Friday (Nov. 9), headlines ran throughout each mainstream and music information shops about BTS being dropped from a Japanese TV present over member Jimin carrying a T-shirt in 2017 that depicted the atomic bomb drop on Japan, amongst textual content celebrating Korea's liberation from Japanese rule throughout World War II. Fashion style apart, what the tales are largely failing to acknowledge is the continued, politically pushed stress that has plagued Korean acts in Japan for years, with this being the most recent stumble in an already awkward relationship.

Okay-pop started its worldwide growth largely due to its success in Japan, the world's second-largest music trade after America. In the early 2000s, solo diva BoA turned the primary Korean singer to prime the charts within the island nation together with her Japanese debut album Listen to My Heart. This paved the way in which for second-generation Okay-pop boy bands (like TVXQ!, BIGBANG and SHINee) and lady teams (Girls' Generation and Kara) to hit new heights within the market and turn into common fixtures on the Japanese media scene -- hitting a brand new jackpot when it got here to abroad earnings by the early 2010s. Largely, although, many teams (significantly TVXQ!) have been thought of to have labored from the underside up within the trade somewhat than driving an already-popular pattern.

Still, with an idol scene all its personal, Japan had seemingly struggled to stability the recognition of Korean artists in comparison with its home acts. In 2011, 1000's gathered in Tokyo to protest the Korean wave in Japan after an actor stated he felt "brainwashed" by the quantity of Okay-content on a preferred TV community and was subsequently fired. By 2013, the Wall Street Journal was reporting on small however "hostile demonstrations towards the nation's Korean residents" staged each weekend throughout the nation. Around this time, Okay-pop acts started selling in Japan much less steadily when it appeared that broadcasters had a basic sense to decelerate on Okay-pop. It's solely been with the current success of new-generation leaders like BTS and TWICE that it appeared just like the time for Okay-pop's Japanese comeback. 

It's vital to acknowledge that the icy relationship can be largely rooted in long-standing political historical past. During World War II, the Japanese empire superior all through southeast Asia, occupying all of Korea and components of China. With Japan's notoriously brutal rule, there's nonetheless unresolved points between the Japanese and Koreans over wartime incidents, such because the compensation for South Korean girls trafficked to Japanese military brothels (often called "consolation girls") in addition to Seoul's refusal to let the "Rising Sun" flag (a logo thought of to embody the mind-set of the previous Japanese empire) fly at naval evaluate.

Korea has made some extent to not welcome Japanese media as properly. After the Japanese rule led to Korea in 1945, punishment legal guidelines and restrictions have been enacted to bar music, movies, video games and extra from different international locations -- with a serious deal with Japan -- which gave South Korea no authorized entry to Japanese merchandise till the '90s. Korean radio and TV stations nonetheless can not broadcast Japanese music or dramas at the same time as minor steps to acknowledging the nation have come the favored singing competitors Produce 48, which noticed Okay-pop hopefuls and Japanese idols competing for a spot in a brand new lady group.

Despite all this, Okay-pop continues to be sizzling in Japan and arguably hitting one other excessive. Earlier this week, TVXQ! was introduced because the No. 1 touring artist within the nation -- beating all Japanese and worldwide artists -- drawing an viewers of almost 1.three million in 2018, in keeping with Japan's Nikkei Entertainment journal. Meanwhile, TVXQ!, SHINee, BTS, TWICE, EXO and iKON have all hit No. 1 on Japan's major Oricon Albums Chart simply this 12 months alone -- the very best quantity of Korean chart-toppers since 2011.

Earlier this week, rumors swirled in Asian media that BTS and TWICE (who've three members of Japanese descent) wouldn't be invited to Japan's prestigious and extremely rated year-end music competition Kohaku Uta Gassen regardless of their success available in the market. BTS set a brand new, first-week file for Korean-artist album gross sales with their Face Yourself LP, whereas TWICE scored two No. 1s on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart. Still, the problem was primarily chalked as much as the current tensions over a South Korean supreme courtroom ruling that Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. must compensate 4 Koreans for pressured labor throughout World War II, a choice Japan denounced, in keeping with Reuters, as "unthinkable."

BTS' T-shirt incident definitely didn't assist issues, however it's hardly the only real motive for this cancellation amongst points which can be largely rooted in long-standing political and cultural stances between international locations. In truth, if it was the one problem, BTS' earlier Japanese tv appearances (together with a December 2017 efficiency on Japan Music Station Super Live) would have logically been canceled too. To these watching the state of affairs for longer than BTS' rise to prominence, it's yet one more slip in an ongoing awkwardly tense state of affairs the place tradition and politics far outweigh a vogue merchandise.