Japan’s broadcasters have lately canceled a performance of the popular K-pop group BTS one after another. Over the weekend, far-right groups held anti-Korean protests in Tokyo, demanding that the diplomatic relations be severed between the two neighboring countries. All such moves are a childish way to take revenge on a South Korean court’s recent ruling on wartime forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the peninsula.
One of Japan’s biggest television stations, TV Asahi, canceled a scheduled appearance of the seven-member boyband on its music show. Fuji TV also said last Friday that they decided not to invite BTS to its “FNS Music Festival” scheduled for Dec. 5 and 12, while NHK said they would postpone the performance of the K-pop group on their music show that will be aired on Dec. 31.
What these broadcasters cited as a reason behind the decision was a photograph from March last year showing the group’s member Jimin wearing a T-shirt that features the image of a billowing mushroom cloud rising after the atomic bombing. However, even some of the observers in Japan acknowledge that the South Korean court’s order for the Japanese steel maker to compensate Korean victims of forced labor must have affected their decision. In that case, Tokyo is certainly digging its own grave because foreign media outlets such as CNN have been reporting on the cancelation of BTS’ performances and shed new light on Japan’s colonial occupation and relations with South Korea, letting it be more widely known that Japan is a country, which committed war crimes in the past.
Japan’s reactions will indeed negatively affect the two countries’ cultural exchanges. Worse still, it is even more frustrating to see how small-minded the world’s third largest economy is. We have seen such petty behaviors from China in the name of retaliation against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Seeing these from Japan, which claims to be a leading, model country in liberal democracy, makes the outlook for East Asian countries to overcome the past and work together for shared prosperity ever gloomier.
Anti-Korean protesters marching in Tokyo for more than two hours with provocative placards and large Rising Sun Flags go beyond the matter of freedom of expression and diversity of opinions, and show the deep-rooted imperialistic aspect of the country. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that the South Korean top court’s verdict should not affect the people-to-people exchanges between Seoul and Tokyo. The world’s eyes are now fixed on how the Japanese government and intellectuals will react to the broadcasters’ behaviors that only disgrace their country.