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BTS, world’s biggest K-pop band, was dropped from Japanese TV over a nuclear bomb T-shirt

Many Japanese fans considered the shirt showing the World War II nuclear attack on Nagasaki an “insult.”

K-Pop sensation BTS performs onstage during the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
K-pop sensation BTS performs onstage during the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018, in Las Vegas.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The world’s most popular boy band had a big show canceled in Japan — because of a T-shirt that included an image of the US nuclear attack on Nagasaki during World War II.

BTS, the chart-topping Korean sensation that has packed stadiums worldwide and broken records held by Taylor Swift, won’t appear on a popular Japanese TV show on Friday because of a fashion choice. In October, images circulated online of Jimin, one of the group’s seven members, wearing a shirt depicting America’s 1945 strike on Japan that killed roughly 70,000 people.

Die-hard Japanese fans of the band have spoken out, calling the shirt an “insult.” And TV Asahi, one of the country’s biggest stations, ultimately decided against having the group perform on its leading music show.

“We deeply apologize to the viewers who were looking forward to their performance,” the station said in a Friday statement.

There’s no doubt that the shirt Jimin wore — which remains available online — is highly controversial. It repeats the phrase “PATRIOTISM OUR HISTORY LIBERATION KOREA” over and over along with a picture of the nuclear attack. See for yourself below.

So why would a Korean pop icon be so brazen in showing off anti-Japan sentiment? It goes back to longstanding animosities between South Korea and Japan.

“It’s just humanity”

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. During this time, millions of Koreans suffered under military rule, forced labor, and forced conscription into Japan’s armed forces. Some people were even forced to change their given names to Japanese ones.

At the end of World War II, the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan — one on Nagasaki and the other on Hiroshima — that led to around 200,000 deaths. The attacks ended World War II and Japan’s rule of modern-day South Korea (after the war, the country officially broke up into North and South Korea).

Many South Koreans still despise Japan because of the occupation, in part because they say Japan has barely apologized for many of its human rights abuses. One particularly painful one was that Korean women were enslaved and forced to act as so-called “comfort women,” working in brothels for Japanese troops.

It’s possible Jimin, the BTS band member, holds a grudge along with many of his compatriots. Still, celebrating the death of thousands in Japan publicly is not the best way to express his anger — and the Japanese fans have let the group know it.