A member of J-pop group AKB48 found herself in controversy this week after appearing to speak derisively about fans of K-pop and South Korea.
Yuka Tano is a long-running member of AKB48, having debuted within the group back in 2011. She’s also a relatively under-the-radar member, not placing particularly high in the group’s last election and rarely being the focus of attention. Well, that changed when she went on Instagram Live earlier this week to answer questions from fans. One wondered if she had gotten plastic surgery on a recent trip to South Korea. Watch her response (in Japanese) here.
She brushes the question, which comes off as a joke, as annoying, but then says, “I don’t like people who love Korea.” She then takes a pause to think things over, and adds, “Korean people are cute, but I don’t like Japanese people who love Korea” before sort of stressing out if her point gets across.
“I hate Japanese people who want to become Korean,” Tano says. She then talks about Korean make-up, which she thinks is great but doesn’t make people who use it automatically better, and compliments Korean food.
The clip went viral, and even though Tano deleted it soon after, the content spread on Twitter and other sites. Many wrote about how her comments found her “insulting” South Korea and people who are fans of the nation’s culture. Plenty of fans of K-pop went after her on social media. She issued an apology via Twitter soon after, which you can see below.
She wrote (as translated by AllKpop, "During my Instagram live, I have hurt people with remarks that can cause misunderstandings. I'm reflecting on my thoughtless and selfish remarks. I will make sure such an incident doesn't occur again. I sincerely apologize."
The reaction to this whole incident shows how far the relationship between Japanese and Korean pop culture has come. It wasn’t long ago that anti-K-pop sentiment was pretty visible in Japanese media, with protests outside TV stations broadcasting Korean dramas and talent Matsuko Deluxe slammed K-pop on national TV. Plenty of netizens came to Tano’s defense; some of it fuelled by nationalism rather than allegiance to the AKB48 member, but the reaction in Japan was mostly “c’mon, don’t say that.” And she apologised swiftly. It was brief internet drama rather than a pop culture flash point.
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