The management company for BTS issued an apology on Tuesday after photos surfaced showing a member of the world-famous K-pop group wearing a shirt depicting the U.S. atomic bomb attack on Japan and hats with Nazi symbols.
In a statement, Big Hit Entertainment said that the agency and its artists do not condone war or use of atomic weapons. They also noted that they are against “political extremism and totalitarian beliefs including Nazism.”
The company apologized to “anyone who may have experienced distress and discomfort by witnessing the association of our artists with imagery related to atomic bombings” and “anyone affected by totalitarian regimes.”
Jimin, a vocalist for the group who was seen wearing the offensive shirt, also vaguely addressed the controversy during a live performance at the Tokyo Dome on Tuesday.
“It saddens me to think that not only you ARMY [the name for BTS fans], but many people around the world must’ve been surprised recently because of the many circumstances,” Jimin said, according to Billboard. “I believe there will be many more opportunities for us to meet each other. I won’t be able to forget my first Tokyo Dome performance with you today.”
Last Friday, a Japanese television show canceled a live BTS performance after photos surfaced showing Jimin wearing a shirt that depicts the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki during World War II.
The shirt, which featured the words “Patriotism” and “Liberation,” appears to be a tribute to South Korea’s liberation from Japan’s harsh colonial rule in 1945, but it also nods to the atomic bomb attacks on Japan, which led to more than 200,000 deaths.
Shortly after the atomic bomb T-shirt photo surfaced, another image circulated on the internet showing BTS members wearing hats bearing the SS Death’s Head logo, a Nazi symbol, during a photo shoot.
The photos also featured some of the group’s members posing at a Holocaust memorial known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, taken in 2015.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the band to apologize to the people of Japan and victims of the Holocaust.
“Wearing a T-shirt in Japan mocking the victims of the Nagasaki A-bomb, is just the latest incident of this band mocking the past,” Abraham Cooper, a rabbi and the center’s director of global social action, said in the statement issued Sunday.
“The SS was a key component of the Nazi mass murder of 6 million Jews during the WWII Holocaust,” Cooper said of BTS’ SS hats.
“It goes without saying that this group, which was invited to speak at the UN, owes the people of Japan and the victims of the Nazism an apology,” Cooper continued.
“But that is not enough. It is clear that those designing and promoting this group’s career are too comfortable with denigrating the memory of the past,” he said.
In response, Big Hit Entertainment said in its statement that it has sent a letter to the Simon Weisenthal Center “to offer explanations and apologies to anyone who may have been distressed or in any way affected.”
The agency also said they take responsibility for failing to prevent the artists from wearing the offensive symbols but claimed that their artists “are in no way responsible” for the recent outrage.
Clarification: Language in this story has been amended to clarify that only one member of BTS wore the shirt depicting the atomic bomb. A headline has also been amended to clarify that BTS’s management and not the artists released the apology.