TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — South Korean K-Pop band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) is facing a fierce backlash in communist China after its leader made comments expressing solidarity with the U.S. as a result of the Korean War.
During an acceptance speech for the General James A. Van Fleet Award from the Korea Society on Oct. 8, RM, the leader of the seven-member boy band, said "We will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifices of countless men and women." He went on to say that it was an honor to receive the award, which was named after a U.S. general who fought in the Korean War (1950-1953) and is given by the organization to South Koreans or Americans who have made "outstanding contributions to the promotion of U.S.-Korea relations."
However, due to the fact that China backed North Korea and intervened in the war, netizens on China's heavily censored and carefully orchestrated social media platform Weibo cried foul at RM's comments. On Sunday (Oct. 11) the hashtag #BTS quickly shot to third on the platform's most-searched list with angry Chinese netizens vowing to no longer follow the group and quit its fan club.
China's state-run mouthpiece the Global Times claimed that "Chinese netizens said the band's totally one-sided attitude to the Korean War hurts their feelings and negates history." It then cited a former BTS fan surnamed Li as saying on Weibo on Sunday "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 strong attitude."
The rancor in China over the speech has already impacted the band's commercial endorsements in the communist country. Users of the Chinese e-commerce sites JD.com and Tmall on Sunday discovered that BTS-edition smartphones and earphones had vanished from Samsung's official store.
Promotional posts by the band on the official Weibo pages for FILA and Hyundai have also been deleted. Outside the Great Firewall of China, however, comments on Twitter and Facebook have been largely supportive of the group's acceptance speech.