VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Queue in Japan MISLEADINGLY used to show commuters in S. Korea

A photo of a queue taken outside an embassy in Tokyo, Japan, was used by a Facebook (FB) page to misrepresent commuters in South Korea. The page’s post was an apparent attempt to show the supposedly similar conditions of commuters in the Philippines and its two Asian neighbors.

FB page President BBM Supporters’ post was published on July 18 but continues to spread among Filipino netizens this month. It featured a collage of four photos, all showing long lines of individuals. One was labeled “South Korea,” two others bore the label “Japan,” and the last was labeled “July 18, 2022 LIBRENG SAKAY (Free ride) Manila, Philippines.”

Part of the misleading post’s caption read:

RUSH HOURS COMMUTERS IN PHILIPPINES, SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN. Meanwhile in the Philippines, ayaw ng mahabang pila. Kawawa daw sabi ng mga alagad ni Santa Leni. (Rush hours commuters in Philippines, South Korea and Japan. Meanwhile in the Philippines, people don’t like long lines. Followers of Saint Leni say they are pitiful.)

Running the photos through reverse image search revealed that the one supposedly showing commuters in South Korea was actually that of individuals lining up outside the consular department of the South Korean Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo, Japan, to secure tourist visas.

The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major news outlets, first published it on June 2. The photo was shot a day after the South Korean government resumed the issuance of all types of visas. 

According to the news article carrying the photo, people in Japan were “rushing to obtain South Korea’s tourist visas” after the country re-opened its gates “for the first time in two years,” following the lockdowns imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the two images labeled “Japan” were really taken in that country. The first one has been circulating on social media as early as May 2021 and has been used to show how disciplined Japanese people are. The second photo was taken on June 17 last year and shows train passengers at the Shinjuku station in Tokyo. 

President BBM Supporters’ misleading post, which has over 2,200 engagements from netizens, surfaced a week after Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said the department needs an additional P1.4 billion budget to continue offering the “Libreng Sakay” or free bus rides along EDSA until the end of the year. 

The extension of the government’s free bus ride program until year-end was one of the first measures authorized by President Bongbong Marcos after he assumed office on June 30.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)