South Korean entertainment agency JYP Entertainment, home to multi-national rookie K-Pop idol girl group TWICE, is currently under cyber attack and being criticised for its handling of TWICE member Tzuyu’s political controversy.
First, a little backstory with regards to what went on the past week:
In a late November 2015 episode of “My Little Television” broadcast by MBC, TWICE was given the task to hold up a flag of their country of origin as the group is composed of members of different nationalities.
16-year-old Tzuyu (周子瑜), who was born in Taiwan, greeted online viewers as a Taiwanese and held up a Taiwanese flag. Following the broadcast, Taiwanese and China-based singer Huang An took to his Weibo to accuse Tzuyu of being an Taiwanese independence activist, calling her a traitor.
(The China-Taiwan relationship remains a thorny issue. China regards Taiwan as part of the nation, while many Taiwanese see it as independent.)
Backlash from Tzuyu’s actions then piled on with both Chinese media and netizens criticising the idol. TWICE’s activities, including endorsements and scheduled appearance, were cancelled and/or suspended as well as broadcasting station BTV among others to ban TWICE from ever appearing.
To make matters worse, JYP Entertainment quietly changed Tzuyu’s official profile which went from “Nationality: Taiwan” to “Birthplace: Taiwan” and finally “Birthplace: China Taiwan”. Then, the agency released a video of the idol apologising for displaying the island’s flag on the eve of Taiwan’s election.
Translation: “Hi everyone, I have something to say to everyone. Hi everyone, I am Chou Tzuyu. Sorry, I should have came out and apologized earlier. Because I didn’t know how to face the current situation, I have been afraid to face everyone directly, so I’m only speaking out now. There is only one China. The two shores are one. I feel proud being a Chinese. I, as a Chinese, have hurt the company and netizens’ emotions due to my words and actions during overseas promotions. I feel very, very sorry and guilty. I have decided to halt all current activities in China in order to reflect seriously. Again, I apologise to everyone. Sorry.”
Unfortunately, the above video wasn’t very well received. The BBC‘s Cindy Sui in Taipei said that many people in Taiwan saw Tzuyu’s apology as humiliating for her and Taiwan.
Following Tzuyu’s official public apology, JYP Entertainment is now under fire for allegedly violating the idol’s human rights as the company is believed to have coerced Tzuyu into recording the apology.
On 18th January, Korea Multicultural Centre (a private non-government organisation) issued a statement to confirm that they have the means to sue JYP Entertainment to the National Human Rights Commission on the basis of racism and human rights violations.
According to the organisation, JYP Entertainment violated Tzuyu’s basic human rights by forcing her release an apology, in light of the recent controversy concerning Taiwan and China. It was cited that Tzuyu was bluntly forced to accept the responsibility of her actions, despite being a minor, calling out the agency for failing to protect her from the political fiasco.
JYP Entertainment countered that accusation by saying that the apology was not forced in anyway. “Her parents visited Seoul and we had a three-way meeting with Chou and her parents,” the company’s spokesman said.
Meanwhile, in a separate report by CNN, Juksy, a Taiwanese pop culture news site, offered to buy her out of her contract up to 100 million New Taiwan dollars (2.98 million US dollars) and bring the singer back to Taiwan.
“We’re saddened and heartbroken by the political pressure faced by an inexperienced 16-year-old Taiwanese girl. We’ve decided to stand up and give her a new possibility, a new choice,” Juksy said in a statement.
This is not the first time that the struggles of a K-Pop idol has been highlighted in the news but it is perhaps the first time that it’s receiving attention of this magnitude.
From unbelievable diet regimens to dating bans, to crazy working schedules and ongoing training programmes, and even complete blocking out of social lives beyond communication within their respective companies, idols and trainees alike don’t have control of their lives. Often, they are dictated by the agency on what to wear/say, how to behave, where to go, so on and so forth. On the other hand, idols and trainees are well aware from the very beginning that they’ve more or less signed their lives away via exclusive contracts with their respective agencies.
What’s your take on this whole fiasco? Do you think that Tzuyu is a victim of violation? Was JYP Entertainment being fair to their young idol? Should the case have been handled better and if so, what do you think could’ve been done differently?