Yesterday, the South Korean boy band Bangtan Boys, more popularly known as BTS, made Billboard history by claiming the top two spots on the Hot 100 Chart. The K-pop sensation’s songs ‘Savage Love’ and ‘Dynamite’ have crashed the charts and the septet’s global fan following continues to grow enormously with every passing minute. However, this isn’t the sole reason the group has set social media abuzz right now. If the entire China, including the ‘wolf warriors’ of the Chinese foreign ministry, is talking BTS, the megastars would have definitely rubbed the dragon the wrong way. Or maybe, as has been the case these days, the Xi Jinping regime has found another reason, another country, another issue to cry and crib about.
But what really did the band do to offend the Chinese so much? Last week in New York, BTS was awarded the General James A. Van Fleet Award, given annually since 1992 by The Korea Society which promotes understanding, cooperation between the people of the United States and South Korea and also awards distinguished Koreans or Americans in recognition of their contribution.
Delivering the acceptance speech virtually, BTS leader Kim Nam-joon, known as RM, spoke about the close ties between the United States and South Korea and wrapped it up by mentioning the Korean War, a conflict which resulted in the death of millions in the 1950s.
“The Korea Society’s 2020 Annual Gala is especially meaningful, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. We will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifices of countless men and women. After 70 years, the world we are living in is much closer than before. Boundaries in many aspects are getting more blurred. As members of the global community, we should build a deeper understanding and solidarity to be happier together. In pursuit of this cause, BTS will always remind ourselves of the meaning of the Van Fleet award and keep doing our best in all that we do. Thank you very much,” RM stated in his concluding remarks.
It didn’t take too long for the Chinese to get upset and react. Beijing, which had fought with North Korea against the American and South Korean troops in one of the deadliest clashes of the last century, accused BTS lead of ignoring the sacrifice of around one million Chinese soldiers who were either killed or wounded during the three-year war. The boy band, which enjoys a tremendous fan following in the country with millions of followers on social media platforms like microblogging site Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, was labeled guilty for ‘insulting’ China.
“South Korean hit boy band BTS’s mention of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War after receiving an award, which reflected a one-sided attitude, has enraged Chinese netizens as many Chinese fans decide to quit the band’s fan club. Chinese netizens said the band’s totally one-sided attitude to the Korean War hurts their feelings and negates history. The hashtag #BTS ranked 3rd on the hot search chart of China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo after the speech went viral on the platform on Sunday afternoon,” reported the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-funded mouthpiece Global Times while calling US the “aggressor” in the decades-old war.
The ‘matter of national dignity’ also triggered a boycott of products featuring BTS. The Financial Times reported Samsung removing the BTS edition smartphones and earbuds from its official stores on ecommerce platforms like JD.com and Alibaba’s Tmall and its own website. “Carmaker Hyundai also removed posts featuring BTS from its Chinese social media sites, based on internet searches,” the newspaper said.
Companies, brands, organizations incurring Xi regime’s wrath before caving to pressure is nothing new. The ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats quickly jumped in to remind this.
“I have noted relevant reports as well as the reactions from the Chinese people online. I want to say that we all should learn lessons from history and look forward to the future, hold dear peace and strengthen friendship,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian Monday.
The Chinese going overboard over the issue has taken the South Koreans by surprise. Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency said that fans of the one of the most popular acts in the global music industry – BTS’ latest online concert drew nearly one million paid viewers from 191 countries and territories – appeared furious, claiming that RM’s innocent remarks have been misunderstood and wrongly politicized.
“(RM) spoke about the significance of the award given to people who helped advance relations between South Korea and the United States, and voiced his gratitude. I feel people are going overboard by bringing that to a political, diplomatic area. It’s really not good,” the agency quoted a 35-year-old Seoul resident, part of BTS ARMY, the name of the band’s dedicated fan base.
Well, “going overboard” comes naturally to the Chinese Communist government. BTS is only the latest inclusion in the long list of offenders updated by Beijing on daily basis. Just try mentioning Winnie the Pooh, steamed bun, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, Ladakh, South China Sea, to the authoritarian state!