A Japanese television station has cancelled a performance by the wildly popular Korean boyband BTS, after controversy erupted over a shirt worn by a member appearing to show the mushroom cloud created by an atomic bomb.
The international superstars were due to perform on TV Asahi on Friday, but the station abruptly cancelled the show after a photo of member Jimin wearing the shirt went viral.
“BTS’s appearance scheduled for the 9th has been cancelled,” TV Asahi said in a statement.
“The T-shirt that one of the members wore made headlines and became controversial,” the station added, saying it had discussed the “intention” behind the shirt with the band’s record label and ultimately decided to “cancel their appearance”.
BTS issued their own statement on the row but gave no details on why the show had been postponed.
“We apologize for disappointing fans who were looking forward to this. BTS will continue their efforts to connect with fans on stage and also through music,” the group said on their website.
The offending shirt featured the phrase “PATRIOTISM OUR HISTORY LIBERATION KOREA” repeated multiple times alongside an image of an atomic bomb explosion and another of Koreans celebrating liberation.
BTS member Jimin reportedly wore the shirt last year, on August 15, when Koreans celebrate the end of Japanese occupation in 1945.
Ties between Japan and South Korea continue to be soured by bitter disputes over history and territory stemming from Japan’s brutal 1910-45 colonial rule over the peninsula.
Last month, Tokyo reacted furiously after South Korea’s top court ordered a Japanese steel giant to compensate victims of wartime forced labor programs.
BTS are the leading lights of the K-Pop phenomenon and made history earlier this year by becoming the first K-Pop band to top the US album charts, a sign of the genre’s growing global appeal.
Known for their boyish good looks, floppy haircuts and meticulously choreographed dance moves, the septet has become one of South Korea’s best-known and most lucrative musical exports.