Tokyo billboard altered to show 'promo for former South Korean ruling party chief'

Footage shared in multiple posts of billboards above a busy intersection in the Japanese capital Tokyo was edited to replace one of the adverts with a photo of former South Korean justice minister Han Dong-hoon, tipped as a future presidential candidate. The billboard operator also told AFP it did not display Han's image.

"Future president Han Dong-hoon appears in the middle of Tokyo," read the Korean-language caption of a clip shared on Facebook on May 28, 2024.

The clip shows billboards over a bustling intersection, with one advert purportedly displaying a photo of Han next to Korean-language text that reads, "Where we walk, we forge new paths".

Han was the interim leader of President Yoon Suk Yeol's People Power Party as it suffered a devastating defeat in parliamentary elections on April 10, leaving Yoon a lame duck for the remainder of his term.

Han resigned as People Power Party leader after the poor showing, taking full responsibility for the election results, but he continues to poll strongly as a future contender for the presidency (archived link).

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, captured May 30, 2024

Identical footage was shared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook here and here as well as here on Naver Band, a South Korean forum.

Comments from several users on the posts indicated they were misled to believe the footage was genuine.

"Our chairman Han is becoming known around the world," wrote one user.

Another said: "This should be all over the news, what a source of pride."

However, the clip was altered to include Han's photo.

Altered clip

A reverse image search led to Google Street View imagery of billboards above Tokyo's Shibuya Crossing (archived link).

A subsequent keyword search on Google found the clip was taken from a longer video shared by the verified YouTube account "Virtual Japan", which streams videos of walks through various locations in Japan, posted on October 19, 2020 (archived link).

The clip in the misleading posts corresponds to footage shown at the YouTube video's 44-minute, 43-second mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the altered clip (left) and the corresponding section of the YouTube video (right):

Screenshot comparison between the altered clip (left) and the corresponding section of the YouTube video (right)

The YouTube video shows the billboard originally displayed an Amazon Music advert for a single by Japanese singer-songwriter Toshinobu Kubota (archived link).

The billboard's Japanese operator, Hit Co., also confirmed it had not displayed an image of Han (archived link).

Its spokesperson Akihide Ito told AFP in an email on May 30 that they "have NOT aired such a video" on the digital billboard.

A separate keyword search found the photo of Han was taken by News1 on December 29, 2023, after he was appointed the People Power Party's interim head (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison between the photo in the altered clip (left) and the News1 photo (right):

Screenshot comparison between the photo in the altered clip (left) and the News1 photo (right)

AFP previously debunked a similar claim that images of President Yoon Suk Yeol were shown on billboards in New York City's Times Square.

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