Hackers crash website of agency behind K-pop star who waved Taiwan flag on TV show

AFP-JIJI, Reuters

A South Korean entertainment company, criticized for its handling of a row over a teenage Taiwanese K-pop star forced to apologize for waving the island’s flag, has had its website brought down by hackers, a spokesman said Tuesday.

JYP Entertainment, which represents the singer, Chou Tzuyu, said the company’s homepage had been down since Saturday as the result of an apparent cyberattack.

“We’re working to fix the problem but we don’t know how long it will take to restore it,” he said.

The company had been accused of coercing Chou into recording an online video apology after footage of her waving a Taiwanese flag triggered an angry reaction in China — a key market for JYP.

Taiwan has ruled itself since a split with the Chinese mainland in 1949 after a civil war, but has never formally declared independence.

Beijing sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, and Chou’s flag-waving was seen by some as a pro-independence gesture.

In a video released late Friday by JYP that quickly went viral, Chou said she felt proud to be Chinese and that there was only one China, fueling suspicion that the agency may have pressured her to apologize to avoid upsetting fans in mainland China.

The video shows Chou — the only Taiwanese member of South Korean K-pop girl band Twice — apologizing and bowing. She had held the flag in a TV show.

“An individual’s conviction cannot or must not be forced by a company and such a thing did not happen,” JYP Entertainment, one of South Korea’s top talent management companies, said in a statement Monday.

“After Tzuyu’s parents came to South Korea and discussed with Tzuyu, they made a final decision and went ahead with announcing her position,” JYP added.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, from Taiwan’s pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party, told reporters as she cast her vote that Chou’s video had seriously hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people.

In Beijing, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the spat was being “used” by certain political forces in Taiwan to “stir up the feelings of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

A Seoul-based civic group, the Center for MultiCultural Korea, said it will file a request this week with South Korea’s human rights agency to investigate whether JYP Entertainment coerced Chou.

The group said in a statement it considers the incident a “human rights infringement.”