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Fans of NCT member Jaehyun attack The Straits Times over story they say damages K-pop star’s reputation

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 21/5/2020 Haneesa Begum
a woman wearing a black dress: Jaehyun from K-pop boy band NCT. The singer’s apology for visiting Seoul nightlife district Itaewon during social distancing caused a stir online when a Singaporean newspaper reported on it. Jaehyun from K-pop boy band NCT. The singer’s apology for visiting Seoul nightlife district Itaewon during social distancing caused a stir online when a Singaporean newspaper reported on it.

Singapore's flagship newspaper The Straits Times has been feeling the wrath of K-pop fans this week after it published an article on South Korean idol Jaehyun's apology for enjoying a night out in Seoul amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Fans of Jaehyun, a member of boy band NCT, took to social media accusing the newspaper of damaging the reputation of the singer, and the hashtag #StraitsTimesIsOverParty has been trending on Twitter all week.

The drama started on Monday when it was revealed that Jaehyun and three other K-pop idols visited Seoul nightlife district Itaewon, the centre of a recent coronavirus outbreak, on April 25, but had all tested negative for the virus. The other celebrities involved in the incident were BTS's Jungkook, Seventeen's Mingyu, and Astro's Cha Eun-woo.

Jaehyun took to Instagram on Tuesday where he posted a handwritten apology saying "I'm sorry about causing trouble during this hard time." Adding that he deeply regretted his "reckless" visit, he said "I will be more careful and considerate of my actions in future."

The Straits Times reported on the incident the same day in an article headlined "NCT vocalist Jaehyun posts apology letter after flouting social distancing rules" and immediately faced a backlash from the singer's fans. The hashtag #StraitsTimesIsOverParty quickly became the top-trending topic in Singapore and remained there until Wednesday night.

In particular, fans were irate about the picture used in the article. Some said they believed that the photo, taken from Jaehyun's Instagram and showing him decorated with faux body art, was deliberately chosen to portray the star in a negative way.

A post shared by Jaehyun (@_jeongjaehyun) on May 7, 2020 at 5:42am PDT

Infuriated fans even went as far as unmasking the author of the article, a 19-year-old intern at the newspaper. But one Twitter user, who claimed to have previously been a newspaper intern, urged the fans involved to "reflect on what (they) are doing".

Various netizens accused the Jaehyun fans of overreacting, pointing out that the newspaper wasn't criticising the idol and was simply reporting on his apology.

There were even signs of division among Jaehyun's fans, with some saying their ire should be shifted from The Straits Times to Dispatch Korea, a South Korean news agency. Some fans have accused Dispatch Korea of stalking K-pop idols, and the hashtag #dispatchcancelled has also been trending on Twitter.

The Itaewon coronavirus cluster came to light earlier this month when a 29-year-old man tested positive following visits to five clubs and bars in the area at the start of May. As of Tuesday, 187 people including club-goers, their family members and colleagues had tested positive. South Korea starting relaxing its social distancing measures after May 5.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


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