US Holocaust organization criticizes GFRIEND’s Sowon for Nazi mannequin photos

Published February 4, 2021, 11:24 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

GFRIEND’s Sowon posing with a Nazi mannequin at Cafe Zino (Instagram)

The controversy involving K-pop girl group GFRIEND leader Sowon continues as another major organization fighting anti-Semitism and hate criticized her for posting photos with a Nazi mannequin in a cafe in South Korea.

Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global human rights organization, issued a statement about Sowon who uploaded the photos which showed her hugging and adoring a mannequin dressed in Nazi costume at Cafe Gallery Zino Francescatti, or Cafe Zino, in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

“Shame on Big Hit Entertainment as another of its K-pop groups embrace Nazi symbols. SWC efforts to educate company useless then apology useless now. Knowingly denigrate 6 million Jews murdered in WWII Nazi Holocaust; boosts today’s racist neo-Nazis,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper told Manila Bulletin in an email. The statement was also posted on the center’s Twitter account.

GFRIEND is a group under Source Music, a music label that was acquired by Big Hit Entertainment in 2019.

Cooper is the associate dean and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Global Social Action. The center, named after Simon Wiesenthal who survived the Nazi death camps, has over 400,000 family members.

According to its website, the center is engaged in “researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context” and “confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.” It is an NGO accredited by the United Nations, UNESCO, Latin American Parliament and the Council of Europe.

Cafe Zino was a location site for GFRIEND’s Comeback Show to promote their album “Walpurgis Night” released in November last year.

In its apology, Source Music said 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.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is the second organization fighting anti-Semitism, a term meaning prejudice against Jewish people, that has criticized Sowon.

Dr. Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC), Australia’s leading civil rights organisation, earlier told Manila Bulletin that Source Music and Sowon’s “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,”

“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.

In the apology, Source Music said “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.”

“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,” it added.

“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.