BTS: Korean band’s managers apologise over Nazi photos
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BTS: Korean band’s managers apologise over Nazi photos

The agency representing the K-pop band BTS has offered its “sincere apologies” following a row over photographs showing one member of the group wearing a Nazi-inspired hat and another a T-shirt that appeared to celebrate the atomic bombings of Japan.

In a statement carried on its Facebook page, Big Hit Entertainment said it “had no intention of causing distress or pain” to those affected by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki days before Japan’s surrender on 15 August 1945 – a date Koreans mark as their liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

The band, who began their tour of Japan at a sold-out Tokyo Dome on Tuesday, last week had an appearance on Japanese TV cancelled over a 2017 photograph in which BTS member Jimin was seen wearing a T-shirt commemorating Korean liberation that included an image of an exploding nuclear bomb.

Big Hit said the shirt was not intended to offend but offered its “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”.

Earlier this week the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organisation, criticised the band over a photograph showing group member RM in a cap featuring the symbol of the Death’s Head Units – SS organisations that administered the Nazi concentration camps. The centre also linked to images of band members posing at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

The centre’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, accused the group of “mocking the past”, adding: “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.”

Big Hit said it took full responsibility “for not providing the necessary and careful support to our artist that may have prevented these issues”, adding that the band members were “in no way responsible” for the controversy.

Cooper had also criticised a 2017 performance in which BTS took to the stage waving flags that he said were “eerily similar” to the swastika.

In response Big Hit said the routine, at a concert in honour of the Korean artist Seo Taiji, was intended as a commentary on South Korea’s rigid education system and that the flags were “completely unrelated to national socialism”.

The agency said it had apologised to associations of A-bomb survivors in Japan, while the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it welcomed the apology.

BTS’s Jimin touched on the controversy during their concert in Tokyo on Tuesday. “My heart really aches … not only army [as BTS fans are collectively known] but also many people around the world must have been surprised and concerned over recent controversies,” he said, according to the Korea Times.

“I will never forget our first Tokyo Dome concert. I am so happy to be here with you. I hope you feel the same.”

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