TWICE Sana‘s recent Instagram post about Japan’s Hesei era ending has triggered many Korean right wing nationalists and the criticism about her upload continues to grow. While JYP Entertainment has not yet responded officially to the controversy, a person claiming to be the descendant of a Battleship Island laborer commented on J. Y. Park‘s Instagram about the agency’s need to educate its idols to be politically correct. The long comment now has Koreans discussing whether Sana should or should not have posted the message on the official group Instagram for the public to see.
The Battleship Island laborers and their descendants have been working to reveal their stories about how the South Korean laborers were heavily exploited on Battleship Island for Japan in 1943 to 1945.
The person introduced herself as the granddaughter of Mr. Choi Jang Seob who was also a Battleship Island laborer. She wrote that she is “commenting out of such devastating anger.”
Mr. Choi’s granddaughter explained how her grandfather worked hard to share his story on the island. Mr. Choi, who passed away a little over a year ago – according to the granddaughter, was well known among Koreans because he appeared on many TV programs and documentaries covering the history of Battleship Island.
My grandfather, when he was alive, went on TV interviews and other events even when it wasn’t easy for him physically and mentally. He tried to share the truth about the exploitation that happened on Battleship Island and requested Japan to apologize and compensate the laborers. He wanted to stop the island from becoming a UNESCO world heritage with such a false history, so he even went back to the island where the worst of his memories haunted him. Being his granddaughter, I find it extremely disappointing to see Sana’s Instagram post.
She pointed out that Sana should have been more careful and opted not to speak of something that is so politically complicated between Korea and Japan. The granddaughter heavily criticized Sana and went on to call her “a citizen of Japan who has no sense of guilt about what her country did in the past.”
Mr. Choi’s granddaughter claimed that she sees it as a problem for a Japanese person working in the K-Pop industry to not have a good understanding of the depth and the sensitivities of the historical complications between Japan and Korea. She concluded by strongly urging J. Y. Park himself to teach his idols how to be politically aware.
Teach your idols about history. Don’t ever let profit come before political correctness. Be a responsible producer and apologize for Sana’s careless mistake.
J. Y. Park has still not reacted to the controversy or the comment. However, in response to the growing controversy, Kwangwoon University’s professor Kang Tae Woong stepped forward in Sana’s defense and clarified that her message is not politically incorrect and that people should not read too deeply into it.
Japanese people use the era concept even when they fill out their birthdates on formal documents. Koreans use the numeric year and the Japanese use the eras. That’s all there is to it. The Japanese speak of their eras mainly when they are trying to differentiate the generations. It’s completely normal. It is most definitely not trying to praise the Japanese imperialism or to glorify its history. For example, a person born in the Showa era is considered to be from an older generation and a person from the Hesei era is from a younger generation. The girl group member was born in the Hesei era and that era has come to an end. She must have felt like she is no longer a part of the younger generation. That’s all she probably meant when she posted the message.
— Professor Kang Tae Woong
Koreans remain divided about whether it was politically insensitive or completely appropriate for Sana to express her thoughts about her country’s Hesei era ending. Amidst the growing debate, a Korean news report summed up the issue and stated that “It was okay for a Japanese citizen Sana to have written it, but not for a K-Pop girl group member Sana to have posted it.”
Read the granddaughter’s full comment below:
Translations: “Mr. Park Jin Young, I’m XXX and I am the granddaughter of Choi Jang Seob who is a victim of the Japanese Battleship Island laborer exploitation. I don’t know if you’ll see this comment, but I had something to tell you about Sana’s recent Instagram post. I am commenting out of such devastating anger. It has been a little over a year since my grandfather passed away. My grandfather, when he was alive, went on TV interviews and other events even when it wasn’t easy for him physically and mentally. He tried to share the truth about the exploitation that happened on Battleship Island and requested Japan to apologize and compensate the laborers. He wanted to stop the island from becoming a UNESCO world heritage with such a false history, so he even went back to the island where the worst of his memories haunted him. Being his granddaughter, I find it extremely disappointing to see Sana’s Instagram post. Japan has never apologized nor compensated my grandfather and that making that happen remains a mission. That is why this isn’t “history” for me. All of this is happening right now, as the present, as you and I live each moment. Can you even grasp that idea? I was destroyed after seeing Sana’s message. For her to have written about the “era” concept, which represent the Japanese imperialism and its right wing power, only proves that she is a citizen of Japan who has no sense of guilt about what her country did in the past. Showing respect to a generation and being sad about an era being over is for citizens from nations without shameful history. I don’t think it’s something a Japanese person should be proud of. Under the Japanese imperialism, my grandfather, who was a teen at the time, went through things that you would never be able to imagine. Under the Japanese imperialism, young women of Korea had to say goodbye to their happy futures and selves. Under the Japanese imperialism, Korea lost its identity, its name, its families, its language, its land, its food, and its lives. That’s what imperialism did. The right wing nationalists of Japan revived the era concept in 1979. It doesn’t matter if the previous emperor was friendly to Korea or not. Japan continues to embrace their imperialistic history. And for a Japanese K-Pop girl group member, who was produced by Korea and who works in Korea, to feel no shame about it is a problem. I’m sorry such is the case. I can never speak on behalf of the exploited laborers. But I dare share my grandfather’s story, not only because I can as his descendant but because I can’t ignore the victims anymore. I heard you focus on educating your trainees how to be good natured. A person’s good nature could only come with good morals and an even better understanding of history and political awareness. I want to ask if you, as a producer of Sana, truly don’t see anything wrong with what has happened. A few years back, on Korean independence day, my grandfather said, “It is important not to forget. The younger generations must not forget.” So as a younger generation trying not to forget, I ask of you. Teach your idols about history. Don’t ever let profit come before political correctness. Be a responsible producer and apologize for Sana’s careless mistake. I genuinely hope you are someone who has that righteousness.”