Myanmar’s angriest force apology from K-pop act for featuring Shwedagon at festival debut

Image: The K-Pop / YouTube
Image: The K-Pop / YouTube

Myanmar’s Facebook outrage machine has trained its sights on a homegrown K-pop act for the crime of displaying the nation’s most sacred pagoda during their first performance on the international stage.

Project K, a well-known group with a large following in the Myanmar K-pop scene, performed Saturday at Asia Song Festival, South Korea’s biggest annual K-pop festival. What angered hypersensitive keyboard warriors was not their performance but an LED displaying Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda behind them. As has been pointed out since this story was published, the focus of the outrage was a screen showing the pagoda on the floor.

That was enough for some religious hardliners to open fire on the band.

“Myanmar is full of Buddhist people, and yet you did this. We won’t support you because we don’t want to see [this kind of thing] anymore,” Facebooker Zar Lay commented.

Soe Moe said it was a “stupid idea & performance” among many similar comments about the opening segment of the band’s performance, in which they evoked traditional yoke thay puppetry and moved as marionettes before a backdrop of the pagoda.

The YouTube video of their performance was set to private early Monday afternoon and could no longer be watched, hours after the band issued an apology, saying it only knew the imagery was used after the show.

Yangon's Shwedagon pagoda has long been an icon of Myanmar. Photo: Sharon Ang
Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda has long been an icon of Myanmar. Photo: Sharon Ang

“At Asia Song Festival 2020 yesterday, we found out the LED was showing an image of Shwedagon Pagoda just after the performance,” it said last night.  “We are all Buddhists, and we wouldn’t have let it happen if we’d known about it before then.”

Facebook has been a breeding ground for extremism and hate in Myanmar, and the platform is widely blamed for contributing to 2016’s ethnic cleansing.

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There were plenty of fans who didn’t see a problem.

“There’s always people who will blame whatever you do. Keep what you are doing,” Facebooker Aung Kaung Myat said in support of the group.

The group performed twice at the festival, held from Oct. through Saturday, along with K-pop stars iKon, GFriend, The Boyz and many others. Project K performed Live It Up (by Myanmar artist Jaz3) and Jopping (by SuperM).


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