BTS—arguably the biggest boyband in the world—faces an onslaught of criticism on Chinese social media and press after the band leader recognised the shared suffering of Americans and Koreans during a recent ceremony commemorating the Korean War.
The band leader— aka RM—appeared to have riled up fans in China during a speech when the band received an award from US-based organisation, Korea Society, for the band's contribution to South Korea-US relations. RM’s comments about a “history of pain” shared between South Korea and the US was perceived as anti-China, and in contradiction of forces from North Korea and China in the war.
Following the episode, brands swiftly took action. Samsung—which carries a BTS edition smartphone—removed mention of the band from its Chinese website. SCMP reported that posts featuring the BTS smartphone and earphones also disappeared from Tmall and JD.com. Chinese state-owned daily Global Times reported that the items were out of stock.
Korean carmaker Hyundai was reported to have removed ads and references to BTS from its Chinese social-media accounts. However, a music video that the band created for Hyundai still appears on the Chinese website at time of publish.
Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to Samsung and Hyundai, but did not immediately hear back.
On Weibo, Chinese users were seen (screenshots below) to post negative sentiment including “I regret that I have followed BTS for some time” and “I can’t believe [BTS] would do this, I won’t pay anything for them ever again”.
One BTS fan told Global Times: "There were thousands of Chinese soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war. You are South Korean people and you can say that, but I am Chinese so I decided to be angry and quit the boy band's fan club to express my clear attitude.” The paper added that BTS’ comments reflected a “one-sided attitude”.
Activist Joshua Wong, who has been at the forefront of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, tweeted: “Nothing could be more ridiculous when the award is given to those promoting US-Korea relations, it's natural to only mention the two nations. In fact, the speech didn't even mention #China, nor anything against it, but nationalist trolls have already treated it as an insult.”
[Stand with #BTS amid #Chinese trolls' unreasonable attacks]— Joshua Wong ??? ?? (@joshuawongcf) October 12, 2020
1. After its inspiring #VanFleetAward speech, #BTS is now slammed by #China’s state mouthpiece and nationalist trolls, claiming BTS "deliberately ignored China’s contributions” in their speech.https://t.co/0GCgmo4ZPw
During a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, said: “I’ve noticed related reports, and also the reaction of Chinese netizens. We should learn from history and look toward the future by cherishing peace and advancing our friendship.”
A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.
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