BTS leader RM/Courtesy of BigHit Entertainment

Anti-Japanese sentiment sweeps Korea

On July 4, Japan announced strict restrictions on exports of key high-tech materials, which Korean electronics firms use to make semiconductors and smartphones.

On the day, K-pop superstar BTS left Korea for a concert tour in Japan. And the band’s leader RM wore clothes made by a Japanese brand to cause controversy here.

Angered by Tokyo’s move to restrict exports of the materials, Koreans started boycotts of Japanese consumer products ranging from automobiles and clothes to beers.

Because semiconductors and smartphones are significant export items for the Korean economy, Japan’s maneuver generates great resentment in Korea.

In particular, many Koreans have anti-Japanese sentiment deep down because of Japan’s brutal colonial rule during 1910 and 1945. They think that Japan lacks sincere repentance for its wartime atrocities.

Its curbs on exports of high-tech materials are also related to Japan’s use of forced labor during World War II, according to observers. After Korean courts ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims, Japan came up with the measure.

As a result, requests to boycott Japanese products are mounting. On the lips of people are such brands as Uniqlo, Toyota, Kirin, and Panasonic to name but a few. Proponents of the boycott even urge Koreans not to travel to Japan.

Some celebrities took part in the movements. And those who use Japanese products come under criticisms.

Up until now, BTS has been free from such debates because fans were reluctant to criticize the world-famous boy band.

This time around, however, things seem to be somewhat different as some fans take issue with RM’s clothes, which is extraordinary. In fact, RM has been quite patriotic.

In time with the National Liberation Day in 2013, for example, he urged people to thank the independent fighters who have sacrificed their lives for Korea during the Japanese rule. “There is no future for a nation that has forgotten its history,” he tweeted.

RM or BigHit Entertainment, the agency of BTS, have yet to come up with any responses.

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The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.