Australian civil rights group asks GFRIEND’s Sowon to apologize for Nazi mannequin photos

Published February 3, 2021, 7:20 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

The chairman of Australia’s leading civil rights organization has called on K-pop girl group GFRIEND leader Sowon to make a sincere apology and educate herself about the Holocaust after she uploaded photos posing with a Nazi mannequin in a cafe in South Korea. 

Sowon posted the photos on her Instagram account on Jan. 31 that showed her hugging and adoring a mannequin dressed in Nazi costume taken at Cafe Gallery Zino Francescatti, or Cafe Zino, in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. 

The cafe was a location site for GFRIEND’s Comeback Show to promote their album “Walpurgis Night” released in November last year. While Sowon deleted the photos, the controversy grew and netizens severely criticized her. 

Source Music, GFRIEND’s agency, issued an apology and explained that “last November, a production company employed by the broadcast network shooting video footage for a new album release comeback show rented a cafe located in Paju, Gyeonggi-do for the production. Our staff on-site took behind-the-scenes footage as well as a number of photographs for posting on artist social media.”

The agency said “staff members tasked with reviewing the site on the day of the shoot failed to realize that there were serious issues with the clothing and props on the mannequins. Subsequently, internal reviews and discussions also did not recognize these issues before the behind-the-scenes clips (December 12) and photographs (January 31) were uploaded.”

“We would like to apologize for failing to recognize prior to the shoot that there were inappropriate props located on the premises, neglecting to carry out a careful review of the footage and photographs before uploading them, and failing to maintain sufficient awareness of issues with vast historical and social implications,” it said. 

Source Music added, “The artist [Sowon] herself immediately deleted the photographs after being aware of what the images contain. She is feeling a profound sense of responsibility and deep regret for having uploaded the photographs.” 

However, Dr. Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC), Australia’s leading civil rights organization, said the statement is inadequate and Sowon should explain, issue an apology and learn about The Holocaust, a genocide during World War II led by Germany’s Nazi leader Adolf Hitler that killed six million Jews. 

“This so-called apology is simply not enough. Sowon has to explain why she posed with a mannequin whose insignia represents pure evil and inhumanity, and the extermination of six million Jews and millions of others,” Abramovich told Manila Bulletin

He added, “It beggars belief that no one on her team and management raised the red flag about her posing and posting of this image. This constitutes another low in popular culture, and it is time for Sowon to take full responsibility for her unacceptable behavior and issue a full-throated condemnation of Nazism.”  

Abramovich said “as we witness a dramatic surge in antisemitism and Holocaust denial worldwide, the last thing we need is for public figures to convey the message to their young fans that there is something cool and chic about mass murder and genocide.”

“We call on Sowon to do some serious soul searching and offer a heartfelt and sincere statement of regret for the hurt and pain she has caused to the survivors and the families. We also hope that she takes the time to learn about the Holocaust and the crimes that the Nazis committed,” he said. 

Established in Australia in 1979, ADC’s mission is “to fight anti-Semitism, combat all forms of racism and hatred, to counter the defamation of the Jewish people and Israel, and to promote and cultivate respect and understanding between people of all religions and backgrounds,” according to its website.