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7 times K-pop idols came under fire for their ‘ignorance’ of history and world culture

K-pop agencies should seriously consider letting their trainees finish their schooling first before debuting into the South Korean entertainment industry. That way, they can learn more about history and world cultures, and avoid being subjected to criticism by their fans.

Following the fiasco caused by TWICE’s Chaeyoung’s Sid Vicious shirt with the titled Swastika “Hakenkreuz” symbol at the front, K-pop fans have been critical and had even brought up past instances where some K-pop idols were questioned for their controversial fashion choices or lack of knowledge on things usually learned in school, most especially at the unspoken “love affair” with anything military (a.k.a. Nazi Germany-esque).

Former GFriend member Sowon posing with a Nazi mannequin

In 2021, the former GFriend member received backlash and was accused of being anti-Semitic for an Instagram post she had shared, where she was seen posing with a mannequin wearing a Nazi uniform.

Source Music, her former label, announced in a statement that Sowon had taken down the post after “understanding the significance of the image”, and felt deeply responsible for posting the images. They also went on to explain that the staff involved were completely unaware of the decorations at the filming location, which was reported by SCMP as Café Zino in Paju, South Korea, and also apologized for their offense.

However at the time, fans of the girl group dug up other instances of GFriend joking about Nazism and Adolf Hitler, even nicknaming Sowon as “Kitler”—a play on Sowon’s surname Kim and “Hitler”.

BTS causing outrage over past photoshoots with problematic symbols in their outfits

Back in 2018, BTS was embroiled in a number of controversies surrounding their past photoshoots. The first was when a picture of member Jimin wearing a shirt showing the US atomic bombing of Japan and a slogan of Korean liberation circulated on the Internet, and the second was RM wearing a hat with a badge similar to Nazi insignia.

In response to the first instance that went viral, and especially given how rocky Japan-South Korea’s relationship is, BTS’ appearance on the Japanese TV channel Asahi was canceled. BTS’ Japanese fans felt greatly insulted after seeing this image.

The second one prompted the reaction of the Jewish human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Centre, where they called for the public apology of BTS. The group also said that the symbol on the hats were the Nazi SS Death Head Logo.

Big Hit later on issued a lengthy apology on their Facebook page, where they stressed that they and the group “do not support any organizations or groups oriented towards political extremism and totalitarian beliefs including Nazism” and that BTS “is in no way responsible for any of the issues” that have arisen.

BTS’s agency also said that they have contacted associations in Japan and Korea that represented atomic bomb victims and had also delivered a letter personally addressed to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. The group welcomed their apology and explained that they only “reached out to BTS to urge they harness their international fame to celebrate the good not serve the forces of evil.”

EPEX allegedly referencing the Nazi pogrom “Kristallnacht”

EPEX, a K-pop boy group under C9 Entertainment, was embroiled in a scandal in 2022 after fans noticed the boy group’s lyrics referencing a historical event involving Nazi Germany and the Jewish people in 1938, the “Kristallnacht” in their song, “Anthem of Teen Spirit”.

Fans were quick to point out that the chorus’ lyrics in the song, “I see them burning raw, Crystal Night is coming”, appeared to be a reference to the historical event. Fans also said that the boy group’s styling in their MV was similar to the uniforms worn by Nazi Party officials.

C9 Entertainment later on issued a statement on behalf of EPEX, claiming that the group’s song was inspired by “various literary works, films and physics theories,” and George Orwell’s 1984 being the main reference for the group’s concept. They also explained that the song lyrics do not allude to “Kristallnacht”, but to the symbolic “glass paperweight” from Orwell’s novel.

C9 Entertainment also apologized for not being careful in their conceptualization and has since changed the lyrics of the song and EPEX re-recording the controversial parts of the song.

PURPLE KISS Goeun’s Season’s Greetings outfit had a problematic patch on it

RBW’s girl group PURPLE KISS also drew controversy for including a Nazi symbol in one of their members’ outfits. In PURPLE KISS’ 2022 Season’s Greetings, member Goeun’s ensemble was seen to include a Nazi Party emblem called the Parteiadler (Party’s eagle).

Fans were immediately alarmed at this and made their sentiments known to Goeun, who apologized on a fan call. Later on, RBW issued a statement and formal apology through PURPLE KISS’ fan cafe. In the apology, RBW took responsibility for their mistake of failing to see the historical significance of the symbols and assured fans that they will be more careful and thorough in the future.

PRITZ’ armband logo during debut that looked so…Nazi-esque

A little-known girl group named Pritz in 2014 was also subject to harsh criticisms due to their costumes looking a little too similar to a Nazi uniform. In response to the criticisms towards the girl group, their agency, Pandagram, “rejected” this comparison and said that “the thought never occurred” to them before the group’s performance.

According to Pandagram, the logo on the armband was inspired by traffic signs for speed limits, where numbers are written in black in the middle of a white circle and is wrapped around by a red band. The four ends of the cross were in the shape of arrowheads, which as explained by an official of Pandagram, “is a symbol of their ambition to expand without a limit in four directions.”

The girl group has been disbanded since 2015.

MOMOLAND’s costumes in their music video for “BAAM”

While it was heartwarming for some fans to see MOMOLAND pay homage to some countries around the world in the music video for “BAAM”, others saw it as quite…racist and stereotypical.

In the music video, the MOMOLAND members were seen donning costumes from the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, France, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. The costumes that stood out negatively were the ones from Mexico and Egypt—with some of the members wearing a “Cleopatra-inspired” and a mummy costume to represent Egypt, and a sarape, charro suit, sombrero, and a poncho to represent Mexico.

TWICE’s Jihyo dressing up as a stereotypical Native American costume for Halloween

For one of their “ONCE HALLOWEEN” fan meetings, TWICE’s leader Jihyo wore a costume that was stereotypical of a Native American, which drew some ire from some fans. The TWICE member was also said to have introduced herself as “Indian Jihyo” at the time.

 

Although every K-pop fan is aware that most idols’ clothing choices are always care of their stylists’ creative direction, it is still imperative for idols themselves to know things that have cultural meanings, or has historical significance. Put that “idol” label to good use, you guys.

 

Other POP! stories that you might like:

Internet reacts to Issa Pressman and James Reid’s relationship ‘hard launch,’ three years after cheating issue

TXT set to perform at Lollapalooza 2023 in Chicago, becomes its first K-pop group headliner

BTS was given a chance to expand in Japan because of rookie Jin, renowned music producer reveals

SEVENTEEN gears up for their upcoming full group comeback this April

K-pop sub-units that should be on your radar

BTS’ contract renewal and 2025 comeback are still uncertain, HYBE chairman reveals

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