K-Pop Star Jaejoong Apologizes After April Fools' Day Coronavirus Diagnosis Prank Leaves Fans Outraged
JYJ’s Jaejoong has apologized after an April Fools’ Day coronavirus prank backfired, leaving fans of the K-pop star confused and angry as the outbreak continues to spread and affect thousands worldwide.
Early Wednesday, the 34-year-old singer, whose full name is Kim Jae-joong, announced on Instagram in a since-deleted post that he tested positive for the coronavirus. Before Jaejoong revealed that his post was a joke and issued an apology claiming that his prank was an effort to help raise awareness, his false diagnosis made headlines across the globe.
His label C-JeS Entertainment RGC in Korea even began responding to initial reports and told fans they were working to confirm his whereabouts in Japan, Forbes reported. Had Jaejoong actually tested positive for the virus, other musicians including girl group Nogizaka46 and singer May J — whom he appeared on Japanese music show Utacon with just one day prior — would have been at risk of contracting the illness from him.
Korean pop news website Soompi has posted an English translation of the star’s apology.
“I am also personally aware that it was something that shouldn’t be done,” he began his statement shared on Instagram. “First, over the social media post I wrote, I want to express my sincere apologies to the people who have suffered because of COVID-19 and to the people who were disrupted in their administrative work.”
“Bad judgment. I knew that’s what this was,” Jaejoong admitted before saying that he was trying to bring more awareness to the crisis.
“I wanted to convey that message because I hoped that people would be more aware and therefore we could minimize the number of people who suffer because of COVID-19,” he wrote. “It’s so scary to think that things like people spending time outside in the warm weather as spring arrives, or coming in contact with others in an enclosed space while making use of leisurely time as the start of the semester is postponed, could cause a secondary or tertiary resurgence in COVID-19 cases.”
“In many different kinds of media and on the internet, there are both big and small requests for people to take caution, but there are people who do not listen to that, and I wanted to convey the dangerousness of the current situation to them one way or another. ‘Please, listen. Please. Don’t get sick,'” he shared.
The star then revealed that his father recently underwent lung cancer surgery and said that he personally knows individuals who have contracted the virus.
“There are also confirmed cases among the people I know,” Jaejoong told his followers. “This made me feel certain that this is not something that is happening far away, and it made me more scared.”
He concluded his lengthy statement writing: “My post today… it went very far, but I thought that if people paid a large amount of interest to it, then they might listen. This method has hurt a lot of people and I am receiving criticism for it. For causing distress, I sincerely apologize to the government agencies and medical professionals who are working hard because of COVID-19 and to the many people who are following instructions to give up on their lifestyles and are doing all they can to overcome this.”
Despite his apology, fans shared their enraged reactions on social media.
“I thought he had it and forgot it’s April fool’s but I have family members who have died from the COVID 19 and in no way is that something to joke about. I was a jaejoong fan but I’m highly disappointed in him,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Jaejoong corny as hell for his ‘joke,'” another added. “JAEJOONG LIED ABOUT HAVING THE CORONAVIRUS TO ‘RAISE AWARENESS???’ WHO IS THIS BITCH?” one wrote.
Some fans sprung to his defense, “Suddenly people who didn’t even know Jaejoong appeared to cancel him? LIKE WHO THE F— ARE YOU? We don’t give a s— what you think. I found out about the joke and I prefer to ignore it ’cause it was a bad for me, but I will not stop loving him when I know his intentions.”
One pointed out that the star has made tone-deaf April Fools’ jokes in the past, “Just found out jaejoong made an april’s fools ‘joke’ once about child marriage. Seems like he should have been over then but that’s just me.”
Meanwhile some Twitter users simply had words of support for the star, “STAY STRONG JAEJOONG. I know you’re anxious with everything that is going on but please don’t scare us like that again. PLEASE KEEP FIGHTING!!” Another tweeted, “Stay strong Jaejoong … try to read your international fans comments … majority of us are still supporting u .. don’t feel hurt too much hugs.”
As of Wednesday, the United States has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 188,247 positive diagnoses. At least 3,921 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus-related illness and 877,422 people have contracted the virus worldwide.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a public health emergency on March 11, marking the first global pandemic since the zika epidemic in 2016.
The CDC says that in addition to social distancing, the best prevention methods include careful handwashing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.