South Korea’s youngest member of parliament apologised on Thursday for sparking outrage among BTS fans by exploiting photos of tattooed singer Jungkook to promote her campaign to loosen the country’s strict tattoo rules. K-pop fans are passionately loyal of their idols, and despite doing nothing to claim Jungkook’s support, Ryu Ho-jeong of the progressive tiny Justice party was accused of dragging him into politics.
Tattooing is strictly regulated in the South, and though it is not illegal, it is classified as a medical operation that must be performed by a trained doctor, with violators risking possible jail.
Despite the fact that tattoos have become more common in recent years, many celebrities still use plasters to cover up their tattoos before appearing on television. Ryu, a self-professed BTS fan, shared photos of Jungkook on social media, some with symbols and the word “ARMY,” a reference to BTS supporters, tattooed on his right hand, and others with them hidden by a long white sleeve.
“Have you seen your favourite celebs’ body covered in bandages?” she asked. “The tattoo regulations imposed by television networks have resulted in this terrible sight.”
Ryu has introduced legislation that would allow trained tattooists to be legally certified. Her social media platforms, however, were flooded with criticism, with over 1,000 comments on a single Facebook post.
“Don’t utilise a celebrity to push your political agenda,” one supporter said. “I’m glad I stopped supporting your party a long time ago.”
The 28-year-old MP, a former labour organiser who now represents a proportional representation constituency, told a radio station on Thursday that she wants to promote her bill using “ordinary and popular materials.”
“I apologise if anyone has been upset,” she continued. However, she did not remove the images from her social media sites, and the negative feedback began to pile up.