Tiffany’s Japanese Flag Scandal: Despite Second Apology, Opinions Among Netizens Mixed — Is The Career Of Girls’ Generation K-Pop Idol Over?

On Sunday, August 14, Stephanie Hwang — better known as Tiffany of the popular K-pop girl group So Nyeo Shi Dae (SNSD) or Girls’ Generation — was suddenly under fire by Korean netizens for a couple of posts she uploaded on her social media accounts. The reason why they were angry with Tiffany was because she utilized Japanese emoticons, something which makes sense given the fact that she was performing in Tokyo at the time. Unfortunately, the use of said Japanese emoticons were seen as insensitive given that the next day was Korea’s National Liberation Day.

Tiffany quickly hand-penned a sincere apology and uploaded it on her Instagram. Unfortunately, Tiffany suffered for her mistake first as she was blasted by a news anchor followed by netizens calling for her removal from Unnies’ Slam Dunk. Apparently, Tiffany is experiencing even more suffering and hand-penned another sincere apology. The opinions of netizens after reading the second apology was mixed. With no resolution in sight, one question must be asked: Is Tiffany’s career over?

At this moment, Tiffany is currently reflecting on her actions as she has stayed out of the public eye. Apparently, her transgression was so tantamount that there are reports that the other members of Girls’ Generation, and even Jessica Jung, are remaining silent on the matter, as reported by AllKpop. The former makes sense since Tiffany is still one of their members, but the latter is peculiar since Jessica technically has nothing to do with Girls’ Generation ever since she was “forced out” back in 2014. Nevertheless, Tiffany is reflecting so much that she will not even attend SM Entertainment’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, as reported by Korean outlet Sports Chosun.

“Tiffany, who recently stirred up controversy with her SNS posts regarding the rising sun flag, will not be attending SM Entertainment’s 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii.”

Upon reflection, Tiffany wrote a second apology letter and uploaded it to her Instagram account on Friday, August 26. Just like the first apology, it was handwritten. This time, however, the letter was far more intricate and intimate as if Tiffany were exposing her soul.

안녕하세요 티파니입니다. 너무나 큰 잘못을 한 것에 더해 부족한 사과문으로 여러분들께 이미 많은 상처와 실망감을 드린 이후 열흘이 지나도록 진정한 사과에 대한 용기를 내지 못했습니다. 두렵고 떨리는 마음으로 이 뒤늦음에 대한 용서를 먼저 구합니다. 그리고 진작 말씀드렸어야 했을 이야기를, 그 날의 큰 잘못에 대한 진심어린 사과를 최선을 다해 전해보고자 합니다. 저는 광복절에 욱일기 디자인이 들어간 문구를 SNS에 올리는 잘못을 했습니다. 광복절의 의미를 생각할 때 결코 해서는 안 될 잘못을 범했습니다. 많은 분들께서 충고해주신 것처럼, 욱일기에 대해 몰랐을 만큼 역사의식이 부족했고 아픔이 있었던 과거에 대해 민감하지 못했습니다. 저의 무지함과 무심함으로 인해 마음이 상하셨을 모든 분들께 정말 죄송합니다. 저를 믿고 응원해주셨던 많은 분들에게 머리 숙여 사과드립니다. 지금까지 저는 너무 감사하게 변함없이 응원해주시고 사랑해주신 여러분 덕분에 음악을 할 수 있었습니다. 하지만 이렇게 오랫동안 여러분께 많은 사랑을 받았음에도 불구하고, 저는 한국의 기본적인 역사에 대해 잘 알고 있지 못했습니다. 자세히 공부 하지 않았던 제 자신이 너무나도 부끄럽습니다. 늘 가수로서 한국의 문화를 알리는 사람이 될 수 있음에 감사하며 자부심을 느껴왔지만, 그만큼 더 책임감을 갖고 공부해야 한다는 것을 다시 한번 깨달았습니다. 대중앞에 나서는 사람으로서 그 책임감을 잊지 않겠습니다. 제가 저지른 잘못으로 인해 의미있는 광복절에 심려를 끼쳐드려, 모든 분들께 다시 한번 죄송한 마음을 전하고 싶습니다. 저의 잘못이란 것을 알게 된 뒤 공항에서 너무 급하게 쓰게된 첫 글이 신중하지 못했고 너무나 부족했던 것 또한 다시 한번 사과드립니다. 진심어린 사과의 마음을 전할 기회를 놓친 것을 계속 후회하며 죄송한 마음으로 하루하루를 보냈습니다. 너무 늦었지만 제 진심이 전달되길 간절히 바랍니다. 이번 일이 저에게는 가장 중요한 것이 무엇인지를 알려준 것 같습니다. 이 시간부터 노래와 춤보다 더 중요한 것들을 더더욱 열심히 공부하고 배우도록 노력하겠습니다. 긴 글, 뒤늦은 글 읽어주셔서 정말 감사합니다.

A photo posted by Stephanie, Tiffany Hwang ???? (@xolovestephi) on

It should also be noted that the second apology letter might have been uploaded because many Korean netizens were unsatisfied with the first. Nevertheless, the letter written in Hangul is translated below.

“Hello, this is Tiffany.

On top of making such a big mistake, I was unable to muster the courage to give a sincere apology for 10 days after I wrote you all, who I’ve disappointed and hurt, a lacking apology letter.

Firstly, I ask for your forgiveness for being late with a fearful and trembling heart. I’ll do my best to deliver a sincere apology to you and what I should’ve given earlier on the day I made a big mistake.

On the National Liberation Day of Korea, I made the mistake of posting a design that included the Rising Sun Flag to social media. I’ve made a mistake that should not have been made when thinking of the meaning of Independence Day.

As many people have already warned me, I was not knowledgeable about the history of the Rising Sun Flag, and I was not sensitive to the history of that pain. I’m very sorry for breaking your hearts due to my horribleness and carelessness. I bow my head in apology to those who believed in me and cheered me on.

I’ve been able to do music because of your unchanging support and love until now, which I’m thankful for. However, despite being loved by you all for so long, I did not know basic Korean history well. I’m very embarrassed that I did not study in more detail.

Though I’ve always been thankful and felt pride as a singer who spreads Korean culture, I’ve once again realized how much more I need to feel responsibility and study. I won’t forget that responsibility as someone in the public eye.

I once again would like to extend my apologetic heart for causing concern on Independence Day because of the mistake I made. After realizing my mistake, the quick apology I wrote at the airport was not careful, and I apologize again for how lacking it was. I’ve spent each day regretting and feeling sorry for losing the chance to give a sincere apology. It’s late, but I earnestly hope my sincerity is delivered.

This incident has let me know what’s most important. I’ll do my best to study and learn the things that are more important than singing and dancing from now on.

Thank you very much for reading my long, late letter.”

The second apology letter is receiving mixed reviews among Korean netizens. Some are encouraging Tiffany with positive comments, claiming her second apology shows she is taking responsibility for her mistake and sending her encouragement and hope for the future. Unfortunately, the positive comments are mostly from Sones (official fan club of Girls’ Generation) and Fanytastic (official fan club of Tiffany). For the general K-pop community, they are not accepting it. With that in mind, we must ask if Tiffany’s career as a K-pop idol for Girls’ Generation is possibly over?

Park Bom, 2NE1, K-pop, YG Entertainment, 2014 Drug Scandal
Park Bom, a member of 2NE1, was in a drug scandal in 2014 for supposedly "smuggling" amphetamines, which are illegal in South Korea, into the country. Two years later, she is still in reflection, but she is still a part of 2NE1. [AP Photo/Kin Cheung]

The answer to the aforementioned question is most likely “no” at the moment. Though Korean netizens are all up in arms over the matter, they usually will not demand anyone’s livelihood to be cut off unless said transgression is really bad (stealing, murder, etc.). Look at Park Bom — better known simply as Bom of 2NE1 — for example. A couple of years ago, Bom was busted for “smuggling” amphetamines, a controlled substance illegal in South Korea, into the country. Though the details of the matter reveal an honest mistake in which the amphetamines were legally prescribed to Bom in the United States and were shipped to South Korea for her well-being without prior knowledge of it being a banned substance, Korean netizens crucified her nonetheless.

Two years after the drug scandal, Bom is still in reflection (with the exception of certain appearances like at the Mnet Asian Music Awards 2015), and Korean netizens are still getting on her case, but she is still signed to YG Entertainment and a member of 2NE1.

Relating Bom’s situation to Tiffany, the K-pop idol of Girls’ Generation might be in reflection for a long time, but she will most likely remain with SM Entertainment. The only discerned reason for Tiffany’s removal from Girls’ Generation and SM Entertainment would be if the situation got so out of control that the careers of the other seven members of Girls’ Generation were affected, especially Taeyeon who has a successful solo career now. Besides that, Tiffany, Sones, and Fanytastics will have to wait until the dark cloud made from the Japanese flag controversy passes by.

[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]