It turns out April Fools’ Day and a deadly pandemic don’t mix.
But that didn’t stop K-pop singer Jaejoong from tricking millions of fans with a tone-deaf coronavirus prank.
On Wednesday, Jaejoong of the band JYJ said on Instagram that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and apologized “to those who could have been infected because of me.”
“It was because I lived carelessly, disregarding all of the cautions provided by the government and those around me,” he wrote, according to a translation by the New York Times.
The shocking announcement sparked a flurry of concern and sympathy across social media — and a little bit of skepticism from a few who remembered what day it was.
It turned out the skeptics were right, and Jaejoong, 34, came clean soon after with an edited caption addressing his actions and explaining his thought process.
“This prank was too much to be considered a simple April Fools’ Day joke, but many people expressed their worry for me during that short period of time,” he said, as translated by NYT. (Another widely circulated interpretation on Twitter reads, “I know that an April Fools’ ‘joke’ like this is very much over the line. But within a very short time, many people sent their worries for me.”)
The artist went on to claim that the prank was intended to raise awareness about the public health crisis, before adding he would “accept all punishments that I would get for this post.”
After hours of scrutiny and outrage from supporters who felt betrayed, Jaejoong later deactivated his account. The faux pas now exists only in viral screenshots that many on the internet are calling “tasteless,” “twisted” and “tragic.”
“The fact that he knowingly wokeup, sat down plotted and crafted that insensitive twisted ver of what he calls a ‘prank/joke’ is the epitome of idiocy,” one Twitter user wrote, adding the trending hashtag #jaejoongisoverparty.
Unlike Jaejoong, several other celebrities have actually contracted the virus and are continuing to keep their large followings updated about their health and experiences on social media.
Dozens, including Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Idris Elba, Daniel Dae Kim and Andy Cohen, have now gone public with their diagnoses and reported a wide range of symptoms — or lack thereof.
Some, including prolific playwright Terrence McNally, have died from COVID-19 complications, as have thousands more worldwide.
According to the above Twitter translation, Jaejoong also wrote in his altered caption that “a close friend and other acquaintances” of his have come down with the respiratory illness, adding, “This isn’t a matter that’s far from any of us.”