'Nazi-chic': Why dressing up in Nazi uniforms isn't as controversial in Asia

School students whose faces have been digitally obscured, wearing Nazi uniforms at the school in Hsinchu, western Taiwan, on December 23.

Story highlights

  • Taiwanese students dressed up in Nazi uniforms for a cosplay day at school
  • 'Nazi chic' is a well-known trend in Asia, regularly outraging Westerners

(CNN)In Europe or North America, if you dressed up as a Nazi there'd be outrage. In Asia, it could be just another day in class.

A recent event at a Taiwanese school, in which students held a mock Nazi parade, led to an international outcry and forced the resignation of the school's principal as well as prompting a public apology from the school.
    Students give the "Heil Hitler" salute and carry Nazi banners and insignia in photos posted to the internet, which also show a cardboard tank with German military markings.
    According to local media, the December 23 parade was part of a cosplay event, a common activity where people dress up as characters from popular culture.
    The Taiwan incident is not unique in Asia though -- Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia are just some of the countries which have made headlines in recent years for similar controversies.
    This is because some young Asians just don't see Nazi uniforms the same way their Western peers do, says an expert.

    The appeal of 'Nazi chic'

    Institute for Security and Development Policy Non-Resident Research Fellow Elliot Brennan told CNN for the majority of Asian countries Nazi Germany doesn't have the same historical meaning as for Westerners.
    "The outcry over the Nazi costumes in Taiwan, while obviously offensive to those educated on this terrible period in history, should remind us of the dangers of cultural relativism," he said.
    "For East Asian countries, World War II was not about the Nazis or Hitler but rather the Imperial Japanese forces. Comparatively little time is spent in Asian countries studying World War II Germany than in Europe or North America."
    Brennan said Nazi outfits and regalia often have a more punk or anti-establishment meaning in Asia, rather than a political or historical o