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NCT's Yuta under fire for revealing he's close friends with an anti-Korean YouTuber, fans demand an apology

The YouTuber in question, Rhee-kun, has additionally been accused of using the names of deceased K-pop idols Jonghyun and Sulli in clickbait, posting extremely misogynistic content, and being a sexual offender.
Yuta (Getty Images)
Yuta (Getty Images)

K-pop group NCT is in a hot water owing to member Yuta revealing in a recent live video that he is good friends with a YouTuber name Rhee-kun, someone who has repeatedly been accused of being heavily anti-Korean.

Yuta, whose full name is Nakamoto Yuta, is originally Japanese. The idol passed a round of global auditions held in his home country before moving to South Korea to begin his training under SM Entertainment, eventually debuting with the group NCT in 2016. The singer hasn't run into a whole lot of controversy but unfortunately it isn't smooth sailing for him right now.

In a recent live stream, he revealed, "These days I’m also close to, not sure if you know him, he’s a YouTuber called Rhee-kun. I’ve been close with him lately. We met up yesterday too." His friendship with Rhee-kun has, sadly, been triggering for many South Koreans owing largely to both Rhee-kun being anti-Korean as well as Yuta being Japanese. As one fan pointed out, "This Yuta situation is making me stressed and bringing up some graphic memories of Japanese and Nazi war crime footage. Don't ever, ever think it's okay to side with that history. Please. You haven't seen what both nations were capable of in WWII."

Yuta (center) and NCT 127 performs onstage during iHeartRadio's Z100 Jingle Ball 2019 presented by Capital One® official Kickoff at Herald Square Plaza on September 27, 2019 in New York City (Getty Images)

The relations between the two countries has been strained owing to the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea at the beginning of the 20th century. While Japan's control over Korea ended with the former's surrender in World War II, and several treaties that gave them control in the region became null and void after the separation of the Koreas, citizens in South Korea continue to harbor memories of the trauma and pain pertaining to that history. 

Yuta's choice to associate with a vocally anti-Korean YouTuber is thus more than a faux pas -- it's in direct opposition to South Korean sentiment. Rhee-kun has been seen in his videos displaying pro-Japanese views and additionally being opposed to South Korean President Moon Jae's tenure. But on top of his political views, the YouTuber's videos are also extremely misogynistic, including content like 'how to have sex with a pretty Korean girl who has done plastic surgery', among others. And to make matters worse, Rhee-kun has also used the names of Yuta's labelmates, Jonghyun and Sulli, as clickbait, despite both idols having passed away under tragic circumstances. And, adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Rhee-kun is also an alleged sex offender.

Tiffany of Girls' Generation attends the YouTube Music Awards 2013 on November 3, 2013 in New York City (Getty Images)

While neither Yuta nor SM have released an official statement so far, fans have noted that Yuta has unfollowed Rhee-kun on social media since the incident came to light. But fans still fear the backlash might be too harsh. One fan stated, "I'm so scareddd, now I'm scared I'm gonna go to sleep and woke up to Yuta not being a part of NCT anymore."

Yuta isn't the first idol to be caught in such a situation. Former Girls Generation member Tiffany also once dealt with backlash after she posted an emoji of the Imperial Japanese Army flag, or the 'Rising Sun' flag, on her Snapchat on August 15, 2016, also known as National Liberation Day, the day Korea gained its independence from Japan. She wasn't forced to exit her group or the industry, which certainly bodes well for Yuta, her ex-labelmate. But soloist Jay Park faced a different fate for his mistake.

Park debuted with the group 2PM under JYP Entertainment and was an instant fan-favorite. One year after his debut in 2008, Park came under fire after anti-Korean posts were found on his MySpace, dating back to 2005. While his label intended to have Park continue with 2PM despite the severe backlash, Park left the group and returned to his hometown in Seatle, Washington, leaving behind a promise that he would return a "better person." He has since gone on to set up his own company and become one of the most successful South Korean artistes of modern times. He hasn't, however, returned to the South Korean idol life.

NCT 127 performs onstage during iHeartRadio's Z100 Jingle Ball 2019 presented by Capital One® official Kickoff at Herald Square Plaza on September 27, 2019 in New York City (Getty Images)

To that end, the fear fans have around Yuta, a Japanese artiste working as an idol in South Korea, being removed from the NCT lineup is very real. Some NCT fans are already assuming Yuta will not recover from this, sharing, "Want to sell or trade my Yuta pc but I doubt anyone would want it at this point." Others, while acknowledging how serious the situation is, believe the threats the idol is receiving are taking things to far, stating, "Okay, I agree Yuta’s decision was indecent and should be spoken on his behalf, but while all the matter out of morality, and human decency this man should not be receiving death threats."

Fans are now demanding an apology from Yuta, though many are making it clear that they do not wish for him to be fired. One fan shared, "I hope everyone understands that I view this situation very seriously and that dude has really disgusting thoughts and beliefs and should not be getting any type of clout and that Yuta needs to apologize sincerely for this, but he should not leave the group for this."

As of now, SM remains silent on the matter, but have, for their part, taken down the live stream in question.