HONG KONG – They are called for the biggest children's band in the world, and they were even recently asked to speak in the United Nations – the first band K-pop has ever given such an honor.
However, proving that even the world famous pop groups are not immune to political tensions, Japanese television suddenly canceled the live performances of the South Korean band BTS on Tuesday in the midst of an upset over the shirt that once was worn by band members.
The t-shirt showed a well-known historical picture of a cloud of clouds of mushrooms that appeared over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, and some said it had celebrated America's use of atomic bombs against Japan at the end of the Second World War.
"After discussing with the agency of the band about the intentions of the wearer wearing the shirt, we unfortunately decided to refuse their performance at this time," read the statement posted on the website of the Music Station, a program on Japanese television network TV Asahi.
The clothing article for which it is said was that Jimin, 23, one of seven members of the band, was told in the TV show reality show "BTS: Bon Voiage." The t-shirt shows the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki just moments after the US state dropped an atomic bomb in the Japanese city on August 9, 1945 and immediately killed more than 70,000 civilians.
The block repeating the text that is printed on the T-shirt next to the picture reads: "PATRIOTISM OUR HISTORICAL LIBERATION OF KOREA."
The incident was accompanied by a deep noise that continued to shake the relationship between the two countries, and more than seven decades after the defeat of imperial Japan in World War II, it liberated the Korean peninsula from the Japanese colonial power (it was later divided into North and South Korea). On August 15, the North and South Korea continues to be celebrated as Victory Day over Japan each year.
These historical tensions rose last month when the court in South Korea ordered the leading Japanese steelmaker to compensate Korean men who were slaves during World War II.
Relations between the two countries continue to be burdened with other war heroes, such as Korean "comfort women" who are forced to work in Japanese military brothels. Many South Koreans say that Japan's apology and reparations are not sufficient for this issue.
Incident of the T-shirt was a small, but unpleasant task for the BTS, who in recent years has seen great success with incredible rotation of hair colors and musical influences. This year, the band was not only the first K-pop band to reach the highest point on the Billboard Artist 100 Chart, but it did it twice in a span of several months.
In August, BTS broke Tailor Swift's record for the biggest YouTube video debut, which in only 24 hours recorded 45 million views for his video "Idol". In October, they completed the North American leg of the world tour "Love Iourself" with a prolonged appearance of up to 40,000 people on Citi Field in New York.
But, at home, the relations between their home state and Japan were a political minefield. In September, Korean fans retreated to the Big Hit Entertainment Management Agency, after reports on BTS plans to release a single in Japanese written by prominent Japanese producer Iasushi Akimoto.
Known for creating popular Japanese bands AKB48, Mr. Akimoto in the past was angry by Korean fans by showing the raising of the sun flag – which many saw as a painful symbol of Japanese imperialism – in some of the bones of AKB48. As a result of the reaction, BTS removed the single, called "Bird", from the latest Japanese album, released on Wednesday.
According to South Korean media, the designer of the shirt for the Korean street fashion brand Ourhistori apologized, saying that he did not intend to design the design as anti-Japanese.
Despite the protests in Japan, many supporters of the group, known as the military, seemed unseemly. On Friday, the newly-created single "Fake Love / Airplane Pt. 2" remained at the top of the list of Japanese musical singles, according to Oricon, a website of Japanese music statistics.