NA­TIONAL

Ja­pa­nese cloth­ing brand sus­pends ad

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Hyun-bin hyun­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Ja­pa­nese cloth­ing brand Uniqlo is again em­broiled in con­tro­versy in Korea for a con­tentious ad­ver­tise­ment that Kore­ans be­lieve tries to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment about wartime forced la­bor and sex slav­ery dur­ing Ja­pan’s colo­nial rule of the Korean Penin­sula.

Ja­pa­nese cloth­ing brand Uniqlo is again em­broiled in con­tro­versy in Korea for a con­tentious ad­ver­tise­ment that Kore­ans be­lieve tries to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment about wartime forced la­bor and sex slav­ery dur­ing Ja­pan’s colo­nial rule of the Korean Penin­sula.

Uniqlo, which has fallen vic­tim to a cam­paign to boy­cott Ja­pa­nese goods here, re­cently re­leased a TV com­mer­cial, de­signed to pro­mote its “25 years of Fleece.”

The ad­ver­tise­ment shows a 98-yearold fash­ion de­signer and a 13-yearold fash­ion de­signer hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, in which the girl com­pli­ments the former’s style say­ing “Wow this is so amaz­ing. How did you use to dress when you were my age?”

The older de­signer replies, “I can’t re­mem­ber that far back,” a sen­tence that is spark­ing a de­bate af­ter be­ing trans­lated into Korean, which states, “How can I re­mem­ber it was over 80 years ago?”

Many Kore­ans be­lieve the trans­la­tion was aimed at re­ject­ing Korea’s calls for Ja­pan’s apol­ogy for its wartime atroc­i­ties, its use of so-called “com­fort women” and forced labors, be­cause Ja­pan’s mo­bi­liza­tion of them be­gan in earnest 80 years ago, or in 1939.

Roughly 250,000 Kore­ans were es­ti­mated to have been forced into la­bor and sex­ual slav­ery dur­ing the harsh colo­nial rule.

Yuji Hosaka, an ex­pert in Seoul-Tokyo ties and a pro­fes­sor at Se­jong Univer­sity, be­lieves the ad­ver­tise­ment is po­lit­i­cal.

“The com­pany says it was not in­tended, but the ad­ver­tise­ment por­trays strong im­pli­ca­tions,” Hosaka told YTN, Satur­day.

“Eighty years be­fore was not men­tioned in the English di­a­logue, but was in­cluded in the Korean sub­ti­tle. Eighty years ago was 1939, which was when forced sex­ual slav­ery was very ac­tive.”

He added that the ad­ver­tise­ment seemed to ridicule the vic­tims, sug­gest­ing that they could not re­mem­ber in­ci­dents that hap­pened 80 years ago.

“Uniqlo must stop the ad­ver­tise­ment or at least erase the 80-year sub­ti­tle,” Hosaka said.

Amid the grow­ing con­tro­versy, Uniqlo Korea blamed Kore­ans for dis­tort­ing the mean­ing of the ad­ver­tise­ment.

“We can’t re­ally com­pre­hend why it’s con­tro­ver­sial, but there might be a mis­un­der­stand­ing,” Uniqlo Korea said in a phone in­ter­view with JTBC. “We think [Korean peo­ple] have overly in­ter­preted it in that way.”

The com­ment added fuel to the boy­cott Ja­pan move­ment, which has been on­go­ing since the Ja­pa­nese govern­ment im­posed ex­port curbs on key ma­te­ri­als used for semi­con­duc­tors and dis­play pan­els in July. Uniqlo sales through eight credit card firms de­creased by 70.1 per­cent between the fourth week of June and the fourth week of July 2019.

The com­pany re­leased an­other state­ment claim­ing the ad­ver­tise­ment was de­signed to tar­get cus­tomers in 24 coun­tries where the com­pany sells its prod­ucts.

“The ad was not de­signed for a spe­cific coun­try. It’s a global ad­ver­tise­ment, Uniqlo Korea said. “The mod­els are real de­sign­ers 98-yearold Iris Apfel and 13-year-old Kheris Rogers. The sub­ti­tles are to high­light their age dif­fer­ence. There are no na­tional or his­toric con­no­ta­tions.”

With no sign of the pub­lic out­rage abat­ing, Uniqlo said Sun­day, it would stop show­ing the ad­ver­tise­ment in Korea.

Cap­tured from Uniqlo’s ad

Many Kore­ans be­lieve that the sub­ti­tle of a Uniqlo ad­ver­tise­ment is aimed at re­ject­ing Korea’s calls for Ja­pan’s apol­ogy for its wartime atroc­i­ties.

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