Here’s a lede I never expected to write: Japanese fast fashion brand Uniqlo had to pull an ad in South Korea over the weekend after it was accused of mocking women who were forced into sex slavery during World War 2.
Guardian reports that the ad, which starred 97-year-old Iris Apfel and 13-year-old designer Kheris Rogers, was apparently poorly translated: in it, Rogers asks Apfel what she wore when she was her age, and Apfel tells her, “I can’t remember that far back.” In the Korean translation, though, Apfel reportedly says, “Oh my God, how can I remember what happened more than 80 years ago?”
Protestors pointed out that the line seemed to be a reference to the Korean girls and women who, during and prior to World War 2, were forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels. Certainly, the ad came at a bad time. Reuters reports that relations between South Korea and Japan have been strained since the former’s top court ordered the latter’s to pay reparations to wartime laborers, prompting apparent backlash from Japan and a boycott in South Korea; there’s also an ongoing trade dispute.
Uniqlo’s allegedly botched translation just adds fuel to the fire. 1939, which was the start of World War 2, was exactly 80 years ago, and there are a number of comments on the ad’s YouTube page asking how “I can’t remember that far back” got translated so differently.
Uniqlo says the translation was unintentional, per Reuters:
“There was no intention to touch on the issue of comfort women or the South Korea-Japan dispute,” a Uniqlo official in Seoul told Reuters, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The company suspended the ad on Saturday.