K-pop star Sowon’s management team apologized on Monday for photos featuring the popular GFriend girl group member posing lovingly with a mannequin dressed as a Nazi soldier.
Sowon, 25, had posted the images of herself snuggling up to the Nazi-costumed dummy to her Instagram, where they quickly came under fire. One shows her closing her eyes and putting her head on its shoulder, while the other captures her touching its face while smiling up adoringly. They have since been deleted.
“We deeply apologize for the fact that our artist GFriend’s behind-the-scenes video … and the photo uploaded by member Sowon caused controversy,” Source Music said in a statement posted to Weverse, Big Hit’s fan app.
The controversial cuddle occurred during a band video shoot last November at a cafe in the South Korean city of Paju, and also appeared in official video content released in December, according to the group’s management firm, Source Music — which was acquired in 2019 by Big Hit Entertainment, the backer of boy band BTS.
The November shoot was run by “an outsourced production company” and staffers “did not sense an issue with the mannequin’s outfit,” Source Music explained. “We apologize for not being able to confirm in advance that there were inappropriate props on the shooting site, not being able to thoroughly inspect the content during the shooting and uploading process, and not paying close attention to historical facts and social issues.”
In the images, the mannequin does not appear to be wearing the easily recognizable red Nazi swastika armband, but is dressed in what appears to be a German military uniform from the period of Hitler’s reign.
Although Sowon, who has more than 800,000 Instagram followers, has not directly addressed the issue yet herself, Source Music said she was “very shocked” and “immediately” deleted her post “when she understood the significance of the image.”
“She is very pained and feels deep responsibility” for having posted it, it said.
This is not the first time that a Big Hit-backed group has stirred up Nazi-related controversy. In 2018, criticism swirled when a photo emerged of a BTS band member wearing a hat featuring what appeared to be the Death’s Head logo of the Nazi S.S., who ran the deadly concentration camps. Big Hit later expressed “sincere apologies” for “inadvertently inflicting pain and distress to anyone.”
Sowon is the oldest member of six-woman GFriend, alongside colleagues Yerin, Eunha, Yuju, SinB and Umji. The group debuted in 2015 and has released four studio albums to date, the latest being last November’s 11-track “Walpurgis Night.”
Since she posted the Nazi photos, Sowon’s social media has been flooded with angry comments. Many have pushed for a more direct apology from the star, like one disappointed Instagrammer who wrote: “Your company apologized, but where’s your apology? You’re an idol, own up to your mistakes.”
Other fans have sought to tame online invective about the incident and express support for their beloved star. “Can you haters act mature?!! Where are your manners!!!… PLEASE STOP SAYIING EVIL THINGS TO OUR LEADERS AND GFRIENDS!!” one wrote, addressing frustration with critics on the Weverse fan app.
Some hoped to inspire a moment of more learning than trolling. “She is wrong I admit, but educate her, [don’t hate] her,” another wrote. “That is why the world is cruel. People choose to attack instead of educate.”