Korea—specifically South Korea—is loved by a lot of Filipinos. The country’s cultural imprint has been all but unavoidable for the past decade.
Everyone has at least heard of either a Korean drama or K-pop song. It’s a bucket list destination for a lot of Filipinos.
But not lately. Filipinos are up in arms on social media as calls to #CancelKorea and #ApologizetoFilipinos trended.
Starting with the reactions that range from being proud of your country…
— ion perez (@pereziion27_) September 9, 2020
Shade from Filipinos to Koreans AND fellow Filipinos…
why is cancel korea trending as if pinoys aren’t racist af too ??
— gaya sa pelikula stan (@kakiep83) September 9, 2020
Apparently this whole hullabaloo started because Koreans criticized a Filipina influencer sporting a tattoo of Japan's imperial flag (a symbol that, to Korea, is like a Nazi swastika).
Um, sana we put this energy into a common grievance of both countries like, idk, comfort women https://t.co/60Uf9F7VAJ
— Regine Cabato (@RegineCabato) September 9, 2020
… and, of course, hurtling the same towards the PH government—specifically the President.
— Rey Valmores-Salinas (@rosereyde) September 9, 2020
Mas mahalaga ang rights and welfare natin as citizens. I'm not saying ignore the vitriol ng Koreans. But it should only matter if it's true.
We have our own pop culture to embrace.
— Nemesystem (@Dear_Deadly) September 9, 2020
Ya'll out there Cancelling Korea, but we can't even cancel Toxic Philippine officials for literally shitting on us. Ayt, you do you people~ ♨️#CancelKorea lmao
The question that hardly anyone asked, however, is how did this TikTok video from Filipina Bella Poarch riled up Korean feathers on the platform.
Bella Poarch said she got the tattoo after being “inspired by Jhené Aiko”. Jhené Aiko is an American singer-songwriter who used to sport the same Rising Sun tattoo until she covered it with a dragon.
Comments about her tattoo came in hard and fast for Bella after Koreans saw the tattoo. While most asked her if she knew what it meant to Koreans, others left more degrading comments aimed not just at Bella but to Filipinos in general.
Bella Poarch has apologized to her Korean followers and promised she would do something to cover up the tattoo.
Why Koreans got offended
Why this particular tattoo is offensive to Koreans will escape most Filipinos. Our best source of info right now—outside of digging through tweets and Korean history—is this article from ABS-CBN News.
The article goes into a bit of detail on how Koreans feel when they see the Rising Sun appear on any of the social media platforms they subscribe to.
South Korea, much like the Philippines, suffered heavily at the hands of Japan’s military during World War II. The Rising Sun flag—in use by warlords since feudal Japan—was adopted as the war flag of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1870–35 years before they occupied Korea in 1905.
Such is South Korea’s hate for the Rising Sun—a sunburst flag with 16 rays—that they have asked the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to not use the symbol during the now-postponed event.
A BBC explainer published in early January goes even deeper into the details of why Koreans have been asking Japan to abandon the use of the Rising Sun during the global sporting event.
More than the Rising Sun
Filipinos, however, put aside the fact that Koreans were trying to educate Bella. They zoned in instead on how Koreans have fired racist remarks not just at the TikTok star but seemingly at all Filipinos.
This drew calls from Filipinos to use Twitter’s “cancel culture”, i.e. withdrawing support for public figures, and called on Filipinos to put down their Kpop light sticks—a symbol of support for Korean pop music—and “raise our flag” instead.
I came across with this photo on the Facebook and when I read it, I felt so proud being a Filipino. This photo is a screenshot of an article from an Arab newspaper mainly talking about the contribution of Filipinos in the world’s labor force.#cancelkorea pic.twitter.com/jECdxUtSuK
— vhonnzky (@itsmevhonn) September 9, 2020
These calls, however, were met by people who say Filipinos are just as racist as Koreans when it comes to using racist slurs.
It never ceases to amaze me how Filipinos are among the most racist people in the world, yet we are so easily triggered when the shoe is on the other foot. Are you acting surprised other nationalities also have some racists among them, and you want to cancel a whole country?
— Joey Alarilla (@joeyalarilla) September 9, 2020
Others who showed support for the hashtag pointed out how Koreans continuously rely on Filipinos for education, specifically in learning how to speak English, and how Filipinos have helped not just Korea but the rest of the world through skilled laborers.
Others also pointed how how they have been discriminated against when they went to South Korea.
The issue, however, seems to be confined to social media, as the Korean Embassy in Taguig has yet to address the matter.