Is local fans’ fury toward AOA justifiable?

Kelly Lee, May 18, 2016, 10:14 a.m.

The atmosphere at the press promotion for AOA’s new album “Good Luck” on Monday was mixed, following a recent controversy involving Jimin and Seolhyun. They failed to identify An Jung-geun -- famous independence fighter during Japanese colonial era -- on an episode of local cable Onstyle’s variety show “Channel AOA,” which upset many people.

An is one of the better known independence fighters who assassinated the then Japanese Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi in Harbin in 1909, a year before Korea was annexed by Japan. An is regarded by Koreans as a symbol of resistance against Japanese rule. Although it is two weeks since the broadcast, criticism has persisted on their failure to recognize the noted freedom fighter.

Rapper and leader Jimin bowed her head at the album promotion, and her voice trembled as she spoke. This came in sharp contrast to the cheerful performances of new tracks “10 Seconds” and “Good Luck” minutes ago. Main vocalist Choa was the next to shed tears during the interview session. When she was asked her most precious moment, she said it was when she met fellow AOA members.

Choa had just apologized to Korean fans for exposing the brand logos of Japanese carmakers Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in their music video on behalf of FNC Entertainment, in response to a reporter’s question. 

The video was deleted immediately after the release online Sunday at midnight. The new version blurred out the logos. FNC Entertainment apologized on Twitter for showing the logos saying it was an “error.”

At the end of the promotion event, Seolhyun also cried before the media, and apologized for her ignorance. This was followed by other members' tears. Although their ignorance became controversial, many people say it was overblown.

Jimin and Seolhyun’s remark is not something that the public should denounce, history scholar Joo Jin-oh said on his Facebook post Friday.

He noted a high school survey that showed almost four out of 10 students gave the wrong name when asked which freedom fighter committed a bomb attack during the Shanghai International Settlement in 1932 and killed several high-raking officials from Japan. The correct answer was Yun Bong-gil, while almost half of the respondents’ answer was An Jung-geun.

“This is what is happening in Korea, and the respondents were preparing for the university entrance test,” the outspoken history pundit said. “Given trainees aspiring to be an idol group member begin practicing from a young age, it is hard for them to go to school every day. Why should the public go nuts?”

A reporter’s column Wednesday in local daily newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun argued that the public’s “twisted nationalism” is turned into “violence,” pointing out that some comments online are sexually offensive, while some others deride the members as traitors, despite the apology.

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