Photo/IllutrationSouth Korean pop group BTS (Provided by The Dong-A Ilbo)

SEOUL--South Koreans are sounding a bitter note over a Japanese TV broadcaster's decision to cancel a performance by a popular K-pop group, with many calling it "revenge" for a court ruling over wartime laborers.

The seven-man BTS group was heavily criticized online after a photograph had been posted to the Internet showing one of its members wearing a T-shirt on which an image of an atomic bomb detonation was printed.

Because of the furor, TV Asahi Corp. canceled the group’s performance in its “Music Station” program aired on Nov. 9.

The backlash created in South Korea from the cancellation is likely to adversely affect Japan-South Korea relations, which have already cooled due to the South Korean top court’s ruling on Oct. 30 that ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay compensation to wartime laborers from South Korea.

In its morning edition on Nov. 12, major South Korean newspaper The Dong-A Ilbo carried an editorial, titled, “Poor Japan that takes cultural revenge against the ruling (on wartime laborers).”

On the same day, The JoongAng Ilbo, another major South Korean newspaper, said in an article, “(A BTS member) was wearing the T-shirt last year. An analysis has emerged that (the cancellation) is not unrelated to the Japanese government’s strong backlash against the ruling.”

An official affiliated with the South Korean government said, “A sentiment that regards the (cancellation) measure as revenge is spreading in South Korea because the Japanese government’s reaction against the ruling on wartime laborers was harsh.”

According to the official, some South Koreans are also regarding other measures involving Japan as revenge for the ruling.

One is that Japan asked South Korea earlier this month for talks based on the World Trade Organization’s dispute-settlement procedures about the South Korean government’s support to the country’s shipbuilding companies.

Another is that Japan temporarily withheld its approval of exports of hydrogen fluoride for semiconductors.

According to another official, who is connected to Japan-South Korea relations, both of the two cases are unrelated to the court's ruling.

The South Korean government plans to hold as early as this week a meeting hosted by Premier Lee Nak-yeon to deal with the ruling on wartime laborers. It will spend much time on discussions to avoid creating a backlash from the South Korean public against measures expected to be taken by the government.

As for lawsuits on damage compensation for wartime laborers, the Gwangju high court and the Gwangju district court are likely to hand down rulings on lawsuits against major Japanese machinery maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. on Dec. 5 and Dec. 14, respectively.

Some officials of both the Japanese and South Korean governments are hoping to hold a bilateral summit on the sidelines of an international conference later this month.

However, there is little prospect that the tensions surrounding the two countries will soon calm.