written by: Low Xuan

Background

Twice is a South Korean girl group formed by JYP Entertainment. The group consists of nine teenage girls and makes its debut in October 2015. Soon after TWICE’s debut, the popularity of its title track “Like OOH-AHH” mounted quickly and ranked high on all Korea Music pop chart. Performance invitations flock in thereafter. Out of the blue, Chou Tzu-Yu (Tzuyu), the Taiwanese member of the group is seriously under fire by the Chinese internet community and is crowned as an activist that advocates Taiwan independence.

The Chou Tzu-Yu Incident [1]

On January 8 , 2015, a Taiwan pro-unification singer Huang An, posted on Sina Weibo showing Tzuyu waving a Korean and a Taiwan Flag in a TV program called My Little Television. She was labeled an activist of Taiwan independence movement as she mentioned her Taiwan nationality many times in different variety shows before. The post proved to be provoking and arouse much tension between Taiwan and China internet users. The incident has affected TWICE and Tzuyu in many ways. BTV [2] removed TWICE from their “Chinese New Year Festival Concert” line-up; scheduled appearance and endorsements are either cancelled and/or suspended; Tzuyu also lost her endorsement deal for Huawei products. Backlashes continued: the Chinese media are taking down anything related to TWICE on their platforms; the #boycottJYP (the Korean entertainment company) protest are heated on Weibo generating over 68 million hits as of January 14 according to TV Report [3]. At one point, it seems like TWICE’s activities in China are banned from ever appearing again.

JYP’s handling of the PR Blunder
It takes about one week before JYP publicly responded to the incident, giving the management company enough time to plan through the coming course of actions.

There are legitimate reasons for every explanations/actions. The late response is due to the wait for Tzuyu’s parents to arrive from Taiwan and getting their consent to further actions. Tzuyu is only 16-year-old, literally a minor, her actions shall not constitute a political view. JYP also tactfully acknowledge the consequences in good faith and be part of it, that Tzuyu’s activities in China will be canceled until the doubt is cleared.

JYP then releases a video of Tzuyu’s apology to the fans in China. Tzu-Yu apologizes for her immature action and states that she always understood the idea of “one China”. Taiwan belongs to China, she is proud to be a Chinese. Her haggard appearance and innocent tone in reading the script have won over a lot of sympathy and support.

To further position Tzuyu as the victim of political maneuver on the internet, JYP produces interview videos about people criticizing that Tzuyu is the victim of this incident, as everything she does in her performances should have been planned and approved by the JYP or program producer. The general public opinion is turning around in Korea, Taiwan, and also China.

JYP continues supporting Tzuyu and does not abundant its artist. This is different from the case of Jay Park of 2PM . When he was involved in political controversy and being boycotted by internet users, JYP terminated the contract with Jay Park.

Conclusion
Although TWICE lost a slice of China market from the incident, the group subsequently earned more public awareness and popularity in Korean, Taiwan, China and even the international market. The innocent image of Tzuyu helps a lot. Even when people are blaming JYP on forcing a 16-year-old girl to apologize, they appreciate JYP for not kicking Tzuyu out of the group. As a result, the incident and actions taken by JYP have contributed to the continued success of TWICE’s entertainment career.

[1] https://qz.com/596261/a-16-year-old-pop-star-was-forced-to-apologize-to-china-for-waving-taiwans-flag/
[2] TV Channel of Beijing Media Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Media_Network
[3] http://www.koreaboo.com/news/summary-of-tzuyu-scandal/
[4] https://debakkoreans.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/why-was-jay-park-forced-to-leave-2pm/