Justin Bieber has once again sparked controversy during his travels—this time by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. Chinese and South Korean fans were outraged on Wednesday after the Canadian pop star posted pictures of his visit on Instagram. (The picture has since been deleted.)
The Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines 2.5 million war dead (including 14 convicted war criminals), has been a place of political controversy between Japan and the international community. China and South Korea in particular view Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past imperialism and military aggression. Over the years, Japanese officials have received a lot of criticism whenever they visit the shrine.
Bieber’s visit shows that anyone is able to cause political controversy. If looking at public diplomacy at an individual level, one can argue that political figures run into the risk of hindering diplomatic relations by being oblivious to another country’s historical culture. Understanding a country’s culture is essential for successful and effective public diplomacy.