South Korean K-pop supergroup BTS used a White House visit Tuesday to call out a growth in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States.
The singer Park Ji-min, better known as Jimin, said through a translator ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden that the group is “devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes.”
Another member, Suga, appealed for tolerance, saying, “It’s not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”
All seven members of the K-pop sensation took to the White House briefing room podium, briefly addressing reporters who were assembled for the daily back-and-forth with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Dressed in matching dark suits and ties, with white shirts, the boy band came to the White House with a serious message.
Biden issued the invitation to “discuss the need to come together in solidarity, Asian inclusion and representation, and addressing anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which have become more prominent issues in recent years,” the White House said.
Anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the US have grown during the coronavirus pandemic in a trend many blame on fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump often blamed the pandemic, which originated with an outbreak in Wuhan, China, as “the China virus” and also mocked the deadly virus as “kung flu.”
The trend stands out within a general rise in violent crime, with the ugliest incident taking place in the Atlanta area, where a man shot dead eight people at massage spas, six of them Asian women.
The White House praised BTS’ floppy haired, stylish sensations as “youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world.”
Band members, all in their 20s and who frequently appear wearing earrings and lipstick, have given a voice to a generation comfortable with gender fluidity.
They are credited with generating billions for the South Korean economy, and their label enjoyed a surge in profits despite holding fewer concerts during the pandemic.
Biden, who at 79 is the oldest person to become president, has often reached out to young celebrities and social media influencers to try and inject some glamor into his team’s messaging on social and health issues.