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‘BTS’ K-pop group denounced by Jewish human rights organisation

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‘BTS’ K-pop group denounced by Jewish human rights organisation | The Thaiger

by The Japan News – Asia News Network

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation based in the US, issued a statement denouncing South Korean boy band BTS for wearing hats with a logo similar to a Nazi symbol and flying Nazi-like flags at a concert in the past.

“The result is that young generations in Korea and around the world are more likely to identify bigotry and intolerance as being ‘cool’ and help erase the lessons of history. The management of this group, not only the front performers, should publicly apologise,” the statement said.

Known as Bodan Shonendan in Japan, BTS has been under fire as one of its seven members once wore a T-shirt with an image of the atomic bombing. The group’s participation in a music show on the TV Asahi network on Friday was canceled because of the controversy.

'BTS' K-pop group denounced by Jewish human rights organisation | News by The ThaigerThe shirt worn by Park Jimin of BTS in October 2017, that set off the current controversy

The boy band, whose members are all in their 20s, have achieved huge worldwide success with polished dance moves, diverse music, their own production, original songs and honest musical topics that appeal to their young audience. In the past 12 months they’ve broken traffic records on YouTube and amassed numerous awards, including the American Music Awards over the past two years.

Meanwhile AFP reported that the managers of BTS have issued an extensive apology after controversy erupted in the lucrative Japanese market over a T-shirt worn by one of the vocalists showing a nuclear blast.

In a 1,000-word statement released in Korean, English and Japanese, management firm Big Hit Entertainment repeatedly offered its “sincerest apologies”.

It sought to distance the septet from the row, saying it bore responsibility, and went on: “Big Hit does not condone any activities of war or the use of atomic weapons.”

Responding to further accusations the K-pop stars had used Nazi imagery, the company said it opposed all organisations “oriented towards political extremism and totalitarian beliefs including Nazism”.

Known for their boyish good looks, floppy haircuts and meticulously choreographed dance moves, BTS have become South Korea’s best-known and most valuable musical exports. A year ago the group also spoke at the UN in New York with their message of self-worth, ‘Loving Yourself’ and ‘equality for all genders and races’.

'BTS' K-pop group denounced by Jewish human rights organisation | News by The Thaiger

BTS speaking at the UN in New York as part of the UN program for youth

They sold 380,000 tickets for their current Japanese tour, and their singles sell hundreds of thousands of copies each. The tickets for their Japanese tour sold out in two minutes.

But South Koreans bitterly resent Tokyo’s brutal 1910-45 colonisation of the peninsula, which came to an end with Japan’s Second World War defeat after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Historical issues still weigh heavily on the relationship between the neighbours, both of them market democracies and US allies, even while they share widespread business and cultural connections.

Japanese television station TV Asahi last week cancelled a performance by BTS after a photo went viral of band member Jimin wearing the offending shirt.

The garment featured the phrase “PATRIOTISM OUR HISTORY LIBERATION KOREA” repeated multiple times alongside an image of an atomic bomb explosion and another of Koreans celebrating their independence.

As the row escalated, images emerged of a concert last year where BTS wore uniforms and waved flags that critics said recalled Nazi symbols, and a 2014 photoshoot in which band leader RM wore a cap bearing an SS Death’s Head logo.

'BTS' K-pop group denounced by Jewish human rights organisation | News by The Thaiger

The SS played a key role in the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust and a prominent Jewish human rights group accused the band of “mocking the past”.

“It goes without saying that this group owes the people of Japan and the victims of Nazism an apology”, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles.

“Those designing and promoting this group’s career are too comfortable with denigrating the memory of the past,” he added.

In its statement, published on Facebook late Tuesday, Big Hit Entertainment said the performance in question was of a song by veteran South Korean band Seo Taiji, “Classroom Idea”, which “levies social criticism against rigidly standardised education”.

The display was intended to criticise totalitarianism and was “in no way associated with National Socialism”, it added.

But it “had no intention of causing distress or pain” and was contacting atomic bombs victim associations in Japan and Korea and the the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to explain and apologise, it added.

Big Hit said it had failed to provide “necessary and careful support to our artists”, who were “in no way responsible for any of the issues”.

BTS are the leading lights of the K-pop phenomenon and made history earlier this year by becoming the first K-pop band to top the US album charts, twice, a sign of the genre’s growing global appeal.

South Korea’s top court last month ordered a Japanese steel giant to compensate victims of wartime forced labour programmes, and Min suggested Japanese networks were “making an example of BTS because of the anti-Korean sentiment in Japan”.

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Chiang Rai

Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO

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Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller on site during the filming of The Cave – AFP

Determined divers racing against time. Rising waters threatening lives. 12 teenagers and their soccer coach trapped inside for two weeks. A remote cave that most had never heard of.

The stuff of a Hollywood drama, except that it’s all true and happened in Chiang Rai last year. Now the first of several re-tellings of the story comes to the big screen in The Cave.

The ordeal in late June and early July last year had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects premiered at the start of October, when director Tom Waller’s The Cave showed at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45 year old Thai-British filmmaker says the epic tale of the Wild Boars (Mu Pa) football team was a story he simply had to tell.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet.”

The 13 young men entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. The boys were forced to spend nine nights lost in the cave, whilst Navy Seal and other diver searched frantically, before they were spotted by a British diver.

It would take another eight days before they were all safe, against all odds, in a risky mission.

Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen.”

But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand’s government, led by the military NCPO, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorised access to the Mu Pa team or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.

His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film “about the volunteer spirit of the rescue.”

Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet. They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.

Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production’s close attention to detail.

“What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time. That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”

Waller says his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.

“It’s a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear.”

“In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it’s murky and I think that’s the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened.”

Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere.

“We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round. It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves.”

The Cave goes on general release in Thailand on November 28.

ORIGINAL ARTICE: Associated Press | Time.com

Journey back to Tham Luang in 'The Cave' - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

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BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight

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BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | The Thaiger

PHOTO: BTS performing in front of 60,000 fans during their “Love Yourself” tour in Hong Kong – SCMP

No band has ever commanded a concert stage, alone, in Saudi Arabia. Remarkable but true. But South Korea’s BTS is breaking down yet another barrier with tonight’s stadium concert in the Kingdom.

Aside from being their first ever concert in Saudi Arabia, it will be Saudi Arabia’s first ever solo stadium concert by a foreign act. BTS, debuting in South Korea in 2013, have since been breaking records and the ‘Bamboo Ceiling’ to become the biggest band in the world.

In Nam-sik, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy who specialises in the Middle East says that Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and it is trying to open up more in recent years.

“Until recently, concerts were forbidden, but the country started to acknowledge that people want cultural events. Saudi Arabia wants to show the world that it is changing. Allowing BTS to perform in the country is a significant step in its reform endeavour.”

The leader of South Korean boy band BTS has spoken out about their upcoming concert in Saudi Arabia, saying it wasn’t an easy decision to play in the kingdom which has been criticised over its human rights abuses.

BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger

“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” said 25 year old group leader and rapper RM, who also speaks perfect English he said he learned watching the sitcom ‘Friends’.

“But we were officially invited. It’s been a while since we’ve performed in the Middle East.”

“If there’s a place where people want to see us, we’ll go there. That’s really how we feel,” added 23 year old singer Jimin.

Industry pundits see this as an important milestone that signifies BTS’ phenomenal world popularity. And if successful, it could open up many more opportunities for K-pop and Korean culture as a whole.

In Saudi Arabia, which still enforces gender segregation based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, it was only in the past two years that women were given the right to drive, as well as enter stadiums to watch sports games and concerts. BTS’ concert venue King Fahd International Stadium only allowed women to enter for the first time in September 2017.

In July, BTS attracted criticism after they announced tonight’s show in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Some fans pointed out the apparent contradiction between BTS’s tour message,”Love Yourself”, and Saudi Arabia’s criminalisation of same-sex relationships.

Though none of BTS’s members are openly LGBTQ, the group has been seen as sympathetic towards the LGBTQ community, especially compared with other K-pop groups who tend to stay silent on controversial topics.

“BTS will be the first foreign artist to have a solo stadium concert in Saudi Arabia. Things are changing in the Kingdom. The success of this show could open doors to endless opportunities and possibilities,” said film producer Tanuj Garg on his Twitter.

But there’s also been social media backlash against the septet’s concert tour in the Kingdom.

“Artists have been boycotting Saudi Arabia due to flagrant human rights abuses against women activists and the LGBTQ+ community,” one Twitter user said.

“BTS are UN representatives and everyone involved here should have known better.”

BTS has sold out stadiums around the world in a record breaking “Love Yourself” tour in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Korea during their sold-out world tour, to a total live audience of over a million (1,044,320 to be precise).

BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger BTS first foreign artists to perform solo concert in Saudi Arabia tonight | News by The Thaiger

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BTS will have to break up, whether they like it or not, and fans are not happy

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BTS will have to break up, whether they like it or not, and fans are not happy | The Thaiger

Even though they’ve been making music since their debut back in 2013, it’s the last two years BTS, aka Bangtan Boys (or Bangtan Sonyeondan for Korean pronunciation), have gone from zero to hero in the pop music world. Now they’re riding their success on the crest of a wave that has defied conventional pop marketing and ‘western’ white-washed music standards.

Despite mostly singing in Korean, the BTS fanbase ‘Army’ is heavily weighted in western countries where Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 and Selena Gomez et al reign.

Breaking records in all sorts of unexpected places, the seven member band are making heads turn as they’ve re-invented the modern band genre (they won Best Music Group at this year’s Billboard Music Awards). Many pop groups just burn out, their sales drop or one member leaves for a ‘solo’ project leading to an inevitable disbandment.

In BTS’s case none of those situations exist. They’re still on their way up in popularity, their sales for music and social media reach blossoms, and the members all do solo projects within the broader band framework.

But all this is going to end soon and there’s nothing RM, Suga, J-hope, Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook can do about. Well, almost nothing.

“Not Today” – Just one of many BTS music clips to have breached the 300 million viewer mark

In South Korea, still technically at war with its northern counterpart, all young men have to enlist for 18 – 24 months with the South Korean Army.

You’d think that being part of the biggest band on the planet would mean BTS could pull a few strings to avoid taking part in military service in South Korea, but you’d be wrong. Despite being awarded the country’s Order of Cultural Merit and hundreds of other music awards, matching The Beatles’ record by having three albums reach #1 on the Billboard Album Chart in one year, and being shown to have had a measurable impact on their country’s economy, they will have to serve.

And that means the most world’s most successful pop group will have to break up, for around 2 years at least. Will they decide to serve together, or stagger their military hiatus according to their age?

Whilst elite athletes and some non-K-pop musicians have scored exemptions in recent years, BTS have neither sought nor been offered any such exemption from their national service.

None of the band, which consists of Jungkook, Jimin, V, J-Hope, RM, Jin and Suga, have yet to serve, but Jin is likely to be called up soon as he will turn 27 in December

“Blood Sweat & Tears” – When pop music starts to become high art. Many of BTS songs are based on serious western literature giving the band and their music a gravitas beyond their years.

The BTS Army – the fandom, not the real one – have been pleading with the South Korean government to let the boys off having to serve so they can fulfil their band commitments instead. BTS have the largest Twitter fanbase of any music group in the world and have nine of their highly-produced music clips reaching more than 300 million views on YouTube.

Jin previously told CBS that BTS were fully prepared to be called up.

“As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.”

The youngest, Jungkook, responded.

“I don’t want to think about it at this point. We have something really good going.”

And they do, smashing music records and re-writing the world music “how to” handbook.

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