Korean social media users mock Japan over false claims it 'sent origami to Turkey' after deadly quake
Korean-language social media posts have repeatedly shared two pictures alongside a false claim they show thousands of origami cranes sent by Japanese well-wishers to Turkey in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated the country in February 2023. The photos were in fact taken years ago and show the paper cranes collected from memorials across Japan by a non-profit organisation for recycling.
"Paper cranes sent by Japanese people to Turkey," reads a Korean-language caption to a post shared here on Facebook on February 13, 2023.
The two photos shared alongside the post appear to show multi-coloured objects wrapped up in plastic bags and a bale of coloured paper being forklifted.
Paper cranes have been created for centuries in Japan, where they symbolise longevity.
They have a particularly strong association with the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where the origami birds folded out of various brightly coloured papers can be seen hanging around the Peace Memorial Park as a symbol of peace.
The claim surfaced after a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked areas of Turkey and Syria on February 6, with the death toll exceeding 41,000 as of February 17.
Japan was among the many nations sending aid and rescue personnel to Turkey, dispatching its Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team to the country, AFP reported.
Non-governmental organisations in Japan also received millions of yen in donations and shipped relief supplies including drinking water, food and other goods to Turkey, Japanese news agency Jiji Press reported.
The two paper crane photos were shared alongside similar false claims on Facebook here, and on various South Korean web forums here, here and here, where they received hundreds of comments.
Some of the false posts included a link to a Japanese-language article from a website called Abema Times, which does not mention the claim but quotes a spokesperson for a non-profit organisation explaining what kind of aid should and should not be sent to Turkey.
Users left mocking comments on the posts, calling the purported donation "pointless".
"[Japan's] logic is truly odd. A bucket of water or a bag of bread would be way better," wrote one user.
"It may be a cultural thing, but how can they have no sense of reality?" wrote another.
The two photos have circulated in Korean-language social media posts in the past -- including here and here -- alongside the claim Japanese well-wishers sent the origami cranes to Ukraine following Russia's invasion in February 2022.
In fact, the photos are of paper cranes collected for recycling in 2012 and 2014, years before the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Paper crane recycling
Google reverse image and keyword searches found both pictures published on the website of Japanese non-profit organisation Thousand Crane Project for a Hopeful Future. The site explains the group gathers and recycles paper cranes left by visitors at World War II memorials around Japan.
The first photo showing bags of paper cranes corresponds to a photo published on the group's website on June 13, 2014.
"Photo captured during a tour of the Thousand Crane Project storage facility in March 2014, in which four teams participated (Yoshijima storage facility)," the photo's caption reads.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the first image shared alongside the false post on Facebook (left) and the original photo published by the Thousand Crane Project (right):
The article further states "10 tonnes of cranes had been disassembled and sorted over the past year" and recycled to be sold as goods at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The second image of a forklift carrying baled paper cranes corresponds to a photo published on the same website on November 30, 2012. The photo's Japanese-language caption states it shows paper cranes arriving on that day.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the second image shared alongside the false claim on Facebook (left) and the original photo published by the Thousand Crane Project in 2012 (right):
The accompanying article states the origami cranes were collected at the Himeyuri Peace Memorial Park in the southern Okinawa region before they were shipped to Hiroshima for recycling.
AFP could not find credible reports about any organised efforts in Japan to send paper cranes to Turkey following the earthquake.
AFP has debunked a number of claims related to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria here.