For most people, the coronavirus is no laughing matter. But the Korean star known as Jaejoong of the K-pop group JYJ decided to pretend to have the virus on Wednesday in a misfired attempt at an April Fools’ Day joke.
He made the claim on his Instagram account, which had nearly two million followers, and his legions of fans reacted with shock and concern.
Social media lit up with expressions of support. News outlets and K-pop fan sites immediately covered the announcement. Jaejoong would have been among the biggest celebrities to become infected. South Korea was an early hot spot for the virus and had 9,887 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, including 165 deaths.
Then, he confessed to the prank less than an hour later. His fans’ support was quickly replaced with widespread anger.
“How can you pull a prank like this when the situation right now is so serious?” one fan responded on Instagram. “It’s really disappointing.”
Hours after the deluge of criticism, he deactivated the account.
Across the globe, celebrities, athletes and public figures have humanized the virus’s grim toll by announcing they have been infected, making it hit closer to home for many of their admirers. Figures like the actor Tom Hanks, the basketball player Kevin Durant and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain have shared their experiences.
In the original post on Wednesday afternoon, Jaejoong, real name Kim Jae-joong, appeared to be following that path, writing that he had been hospitalized and was “sorry to those who could have been infected because of me.”
“It was because I lived carelessly, disregarding all of the cautions provided by the government and those around me,” he wrote.
In his follow-up post revealing the prank, he said he would “accept all punishments that I would get for this post.”
“This prank was too much to be considered a simple April Fools’ Day joke, but many people expressed their worry for me during that short period of time,” he said.
His label, C-JeS Entertainment, told the news website Allkpop that it “just came across the post now. We will check on the matter.”
Governments worldwide have been concerned that April Fools’ Day could spark more misinformation on the virus, as health authorities around the globe have fought to contain what they have called an “infodemic.”
The police in Thailand warned that anyone disseminating false information about the coronavirus on April Fools’ Day could face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to about $3,000, according to The Bangkok Post.
Government officials in Taiwan, India and Germany made similar warnings.
The authorities in South Korea have said misinformation related to the virus would fall under laws on obstruction of official duties and defamation, according to The Korea Herald.
It was not immediately clear how or if that would apply to the pop star.
Su-Hyun Lee contributed reporting.
Source: NY times