Photo/IllutrationA large human-faced bird makes an appearance during the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Although the Opening Ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics seemed watchable by all ages, many Japanese TV viewers thought one segment should have been labeled: "Warning: not suitable for young children."

The Twitter frenzy was provoked by the appearance of a large bird-like figure with a stark human face.

The video feed for an international audience had a brief closeup of the white face, which led to the tweets of surprise and fear.

The bird figure, part of the Opening Ceremony devoted to explaining South Korean history and culture, came before the national delegations paraded into the stadium.

Even though the human face appeared only briefly on TV screens, it triggered a rapid response on Twitter, with one tweet saying, "It may be considered an auspicious item in South Korea, but to be honest I was scared."

Another tweet said, "It was at a level that would make children cry if they saw it."

According to the guidebook distributed to the media to explain the various elements of the Opening Ceremony, the bird figure symbolized a mythical South Korean phoenix that rises from the dead. A figure of a bird-like animal with a human face has been found on murals from the Goguryeo period (100 B.C.-seventh century) in Korean history.

The phoenix in South Korean culture is also said to only appear during times of peace so its usage in the Opening Ceremony could be in line with the overall intent of the South Korean government to describe the Pyeongchang Games as a "Peace Olympics."

At a Feb. 10 news conference a day after the Opening Ceremony, Song Seung-whan, the creative director for the event, explained his intent in using the phoenix symbol.

"The human-faced bird is a symbol of peace," he said. "I wanted to connect South Korea's past, present and future."