Japan's TV Asahi has canceled an appearance by Korean superstar boy band Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS, on its show "Music Station" at the last minute over an offensive t-shirt a band member was wearing, prompting all their other year-end appearances in Japan to be scrapped as well.
Producers at "Music Station" said last week it canceled the gig over a T-shirt BTS member Ji-min wore on a world tour last year, which showed an atomic bomb explosion superimposed over the celebration of Korea's independence from Japan.
BTS were also supposed to appear NHK's year-end music festival, Japan's premier special program featuring its top singers and airing on New Year's Eve every year, along with other K-pop stars like TVXQ and TWICE.
But following the T-shirt scandal, some Japanese viewers vowed to boycott the show if BTS appeared.
Other recent bilateral spats may also have played a role, including a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Korea ordering Japanese businesses to compensate Koreans who were forced to labor for them during World War II.
Between 2012 and 2016, when bilateral relations soured due to the controversy over Japan's claim to Korea's Dokdo islets and compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery by imperial Japan, no Korean musical acts appeared on the NHK show either.
BTS fans around the world are buying T-shirts that Ji-min wore, and the incident has gone viral on Twitter. Other K-pop groups are wondering if their scheduled appearances on Japanese TV might also be canceled.
A staffer at JYP Entertainment said, "Unless there is a breakthrough, it seems we'd be in trouble whether we choose to appear on the NHK show or not."