TikToker’s Japanese Tattoo Causes #CancelKorea and #SorryFilipinos Debate

A tattoo of a Filipino-American TikTok star has sparked a virtual word war between social media users from South Korea and the Philippines. 

Online backlash: A TikTok dancing video of influencer Bella Poarch caught the attention of South Koren users who spotted her Japanese rising sun flag tattoo. 

@bellapoarchSo I decided to make a dance for this sound & I’m not even good at dancing♬ The Banjo Beat, Pt. 1 – Ricky Desktop

  • In Korea, the image of the flag is offensive and considered to be similar to the Nazi swastika.
  • Many South Koreans see the flag as a reminder of the atrocities done by the Japanese imperial army during World War II. 
  • South Korean TikTok users called out the 19-year-old influencer for the tattoo, accusing her of being ignorant about historical conflict.
  • Some of her critics resorted to name calling and went as far as generalizing the Philippines as a “poor country with non-educated, short people.”


Poarch’s apology: Poarch, who was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. six years ago, apologized for her tattoo in response to the criticism. 

  • Poarch shared her apology to her 17 million followers on TikTok. 
  • In her message, the influencer expressed her love for Korea and promised to have the tattoo covered or removed.


@bellapoarch##greenscreen Here is a photo of my arm tattoo. I love Korea I would never do anything to hurt anyone.♬ The Banjo Beat, Pt. 1 – Ricky Desktop

#CancelKorea: Filipinos online took offense to the comments and voiced their outrage via the hashtag #CancelKorea, which became the top trending topic on Twitter.

  • Many Filipinos who participated in sharing the hashtag admitted to being K-Pop fans.
  • They shared that as much as they love K-Pop, they are putting the love for their country first.




  • Some Filipino users, however, called for calm and restraint and advised to understand where the reaction was coming from.


#SorryFilipinos: Responding to the hashtag, some Koreans expressed sadness over the issue and have since shared positive messages on Twitter.




  • Some Filipinos appreciated the messages and responded with understanding and compassion.



Feature image via Bella Poarch

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