Since publishing our white paper on November 30, we’ve received an incredible amount of feedback.
Some of you shared with us how much you learned while reading this. Some of you shared personal stories of how your family or your country was affected by World War II. We’re so pleased we were able to shine light on blind spots for you and are honored that you shared your stories with us.
We’ve also received critical feedback, and we’d like to take this opportunity to address a few of the constructive comments and critiques.
Clarifying Our Aim
This project was born out of frustration.
We were frustrated by the coverage we were seeing from the international media.
When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its statement, that frustration morphed into the kind of anger that inspires action.
We wanted to show that there was more to the story than what was being reported. We wanted to show that the SWC’s statement was problematic. We wanted to show that the skewed reporting by the media and perceptions by some members of the public erased Korean experiences of history. We wanted more of the situation to be told. We all wanted to do something.
So because of this, and because we are all fans of BTS and care about how they are perceived, we decided to work together to write this paper.
Our team aims to provide two types of explanations:
The first is regarding the misinformation and disinformation about BTS that were circulated by the media and the SWC. To do this, we outline the development of the online controversy in the media and in fandom circles; present the main narratives found in the Korean, Japanese, and international media coverage; summarize the key points of accusations made about BTS; and provide a thorough inspection into the validity of each.
The second is to do with the need for greater historical context to understand some of the Korean opinions regarding the T-shirt. Many international people looking in perceived a willful stubbornness and lack of sympathy for those who did not denounce the T-shirt outright. Often, those people were Koreans and other Asians who hail from nations who were occupied by the Japanese, and who did not always have the ability to effectively explain the reasons for their stance in English. Because of this, we wanted to help in explaining and clarifying these opinions. We do not ask you to change your opinion on the T-shirt. We simply hope that we can raise awareness of why others may have come to hold the opinion that they do. To do this, we give an overview of Korea under Japanese imperialism, as well as modern politics of memory in the region.
The best method we found to present our findings was to write a research paper with a binding narrative. We hoped it would help those in the fandom and anyone from the outside looking inwards, who had questions about the recent controversy.
That being said, we never intended this paper to be taken as a comprehensive authority that covers all the necessary factors. We do recognize, however, that many of those involved are considered influential in some fandom circles because they know Korean and translate it for a fan audience, and that that influence was easily transferred over to a project like this. We further recognize that this, on top of the structure that suggested rigorous academic research, did give a sense of weight that we apologize for. This is not a submission to a scholarly journal, nor is it a dissertation or a book. We simply wanted to provide more information and context for those who were looking for it.
Our hope is that when you, as the reader, finish this paper, you feel like you have a bit more clarity on the events that occurred, both in the past month and the past century, and that you might be inspired to learn more about the complexities that this paper has only begun to shed light on.
Clarifying Our Stances
Many people have pointed out that by virtue of being ARMYs, we are biased.
This is true.
Though we made an effort to be as objective as possible in presenting the facts, there are certain points in this paper where we do take a position.
So we’d like to take this opportunity to discuss our stances.
We made a conscious effort to be objective about the facts and to be critical when necessary – but because our main aim was to shed light on what was not covered by the international media at large, we often did not touch on some of the fair criticisms that were brought up in other outlets.
Additionally, we are human and we are ARMYs. Because of this, there are some points in this paper that we do feel emotional about, and others that we do want to defend. We believe these emotions are a strength, not a weakness, and that it would be disingenuous to completely censor them.
The Decision to Wear the Shirt
Though we as a group generally believe that the design of the shirt is ill-advised, we differ on whether or not we believe the shirt should have been worn. We know that there are many opinions on this topic – the hope is that we are able to explain a little more on why this is the case.
The Atomic Bomb
Digging deep into a discussion of the atomic bombs is beyond our scope, and we do not aim to make any claims regarding justification, or lack thereof, for the bombings themselves.
However, we as a team agree that it was an undeniably heinous act. Not only that, we recognize that the use of nuclear weapons caused “intolerable” and “unacceptable suffering and damage” to victims of the atomic bombs that has firmly been acknowledged in the international community, as has been specified in the multilateral Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted at the July 2017 United Nations Conference.1 Authors of this paper believe that it is imperative to recognize these undue, “intolerable,” and “unacceptable” sufferings inflicted upon victims of the atomic bombs.
We also understand that to many people from the countries who were ruled by Imperial Japan, the bombings are considered to go hand-in-hand with their liberation because Japan surrendered soon after. As such, it is possible to understand the bombings as atrocities that killed thousands as well as an event closely linked with the freedom from Japanese rule soon after the catastrophe.
Taking this viewpoint into account, the mixed reactions surrounding Jimin’s T-shirt become clearer. Multiple viewpoints are possible on this issue, and we do not attempt to advocate for any specific interpretation. Some will condemn the shirt, and others will approve of it. But it is also possible to both detest the bombings and understand the shirt as well as why someone from a former Japanese colony may see the two events – the bombings and their liberation – as inseparable. Showing the reasons for this viewpoint is, after all, one of our two primary concerns.
The J-ARMY Narrative
Regarding the coverage of J-ARMYs’ responses in the initial version of this paper, we are very well aware that it was superficial and insufficient. Our team reached out to several Japanese-to-English translators to ask for their assistance with this project but almost everyone approached could not at the time. Many had been attacked to the point of having to choose between going on hiatus or closing their account, and others understandably wanted to remain quiet on the issue. Though we did have two volunteers with Japanese backgrounds at the outset of the project, they ultimately did not join the team.
Furthermore, linking to popular online responses is difficult for several reasons. First, it is impolite in Asian fandom circles to use or quote other people’s tweets without consent for your own uses. Second, a high number of posts regarding the situation have been deleted, either due to backlash or after being proven wrong. Third, many fandom acts that were vilified or celebrated are either based on conjecture or cannot be proven to have happened by the individuals or groups suggested. However, even taking all of this into account, to not include even a cursory discussion about how J-ARMYs responded was certainly inadequate on our part. We did the best we could – unfortunately, that best was lacking.
Since the publication of the paper, we are pleased to report that several J-ARMYs have reached out to us on an individual basis, joined the team, and have contributed a section on their experience, which can be found in Section 4 of this paper.
As for the timing of this paper – we did the best we could. We had hoped to release it on November 25, but when that day came, the paper was not ready. It needed more work, so we extended our deadline to November 30. We did not want to delay its release further because in a digital world, time is of the essence.
That said, we do not believe that this paper came out too late, especially since the issue has not disappeared entirely from the media. The conversation about the shirt is still ongoing in Korea and Japan, and as the two nations battle in court over reparations decisions, the shirt is being referenced in international news articles, and opinion pieces about the garment continue to be published. Though the topic isn’t as loud as it once was, that does not mean that it has or will disappear for good. This is especially because the historical and sociopolitical forces that influenced this controversy will continue to exist. Therefore, we firmly believe that there is value in taking the controversy as a learning opportunity and raising awareness on why and how the controversy spread.
We also received feedback from people who found the tone of the paper off-putting, or who thought specific sections had a particularly slanted point of view. We’ve discussed this and agree that some sections needed work, tonally, so we’ve made edits throughout the paper to decrease bias when presenting pieces of evidence without changing the original perspectives of the writers.
Please also understand that because sections were written by different people with different backgrounds and specialties, sometimes the tone is more or less scholarly. For example, the history section is more erudite than the journalism section due to the nature of the topics and the way we felt they should be addressed.
- Corrected small grammatical errors throughout the piece
- Added an “Authors’ Note”
- Changed the opening section name from “Preamble” to “Introduction,” changed much of the content, and included links to sources and other sections of the paper
- Restructured the paper to lead with “Investigation of the Claims” and “Media Coverage” before moving into the history section
- Removed our mention that the T-shirt was gifted by a fan because the fan has since deleted their tweet and thus there is no remaining evidence
- Restructured the way the information in the Korean media section is presented without changing any information
- Added “Final Remarks” to summarize the Japanese media reports
- Added an introduction to the Historical Context section, as well as further information in ‘Post-War Relations’ and ‘Politics of Memory’
- Added additional sources as footnotes to the history section
- Updated the conclusion for “Investigation of the Claims” to more clearly break down and rebuild some arguments
- Added a section written by J-ARMYs to the Fandom Responses in Section 4 of the paper
- Changed “Concluding Remarks” to “Closing Remarks”
If you would like to access the first version, please do so here.
- The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by the United Nations Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons (by vote of 122 States in favor, with one vote against and one abstention) on July 7, 2017. It advocates for total elimination of nuclear weapons and includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on any nuclear weapon activities. This multilateral treaty recognizes the “intolerable damage from the A-Bomb” and the “unacceptable suffering and damage” caused by the use of nuclear weapons. (United Nations Treaty Collection. (2017, July 7). Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Retrieved from https://treaties.un.org)