April fools! The K-Pop star tells his fans he has a coronavirus

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Kim Jae-joong, a member of the JYJ boy band, posted on his Instagram account with 1.9 million followers that he was hospitalized after coming down with the virus.

“I have been infected with COVID-19. It is a result of my negligence, disregarding the cautionary words of the government and my friends,” he said.

After several hours, the 34-year-old Asian pop icon edited the post to say he had gone too far for “April Fools’ Day”, but thanked his fans who had worried about him.

“I don’t think of this as an April Fool crap … I just wanted to tell you that protecting yourself protects the valuable people around you,” Kim said.

Topics like “Kim Jae-joong” and “Kim Jae-joong April Fools'” were among the top searches on the main South Korean Naver portal as the online heated debate over whether the K-Pop star actually joked or want to raise awareness.

“What’s wrong with Kim Jae-joong? Doesn’t he find the gravity of the situation right now?” wrote a Twitter user.

A KCDC official told Reuters he was not considering any punishment for Kim.

Health authorities had earlier warned on Wednesday of any pranks related to the coronavirus.

“Today is April 1, or April Fool’s Day that originated in the West. Now is a very serious time,” Deputy Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing.

“Again, I repeat that we are not in the social mood to receive any prank calls or misinformation.”

Calls to Kim C-Jes Entertainment Corp.’s music label seeking comment were not answered.

Under South Korean law, those found guilty of cheating or expelling state officials or state agencies can be jailed for up to five years or face up to 10 million won ($ 8,124.14) in fines.

Kim was part of boyX TVXQ between 2003 and 2009 before leaving the group with two other members, forming the JYJ group.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 101 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the national count to 9,887. The death toll rose eight to 169.

South Korea has largely controlled the epidemic and has received worldwide acclaim for its rigorous testing.

The Korean pop music scene is popular across Asia but has a dark underbelly. In 2019, several male K-pop stars and one of the industry’s biggest producers were questioned by police over alleged illegal gambling and prostitution. (Won $ 1 = 1,230.9000)