BTS, the seven-member South Korean pop group with one of the world’s most ravenous fanbases, visited the White House on Tuesday to address the rise in hate crimes and other acts of discrimination against Asian Americans.
The band, also known as the Bangtan Boys, participated in a press briefing with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre before meeting with President Joe Biden.
“We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes,” BTS vocalist Jimin said from the podium, as conveyed by an interpreter. “To put a tough stop on this and support the cause, we’d like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again to say we are here today thanks to our army ― our fans worldwide ― who have different nationalities and cultures and use different languages. We are truly and always grateful.”
Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which former President Donald Trump repeatedly called “the China virus,” “kung flu” and other racist names because of its origins in Asia. A report published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism earlier this year found that anti-Asian hate crimes jumped by 339 percent in 2021 compared to the year before.
“We hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person,” BTS vocalist V said through the interpreter.
Hundreds of K-pop fans assembled outside the White House gates during the press briefing, chanting the band’s name. More than a quarter-million people reportedly tuned into to the White House stream of the event on YouTube.
White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese followed BTS at Tuesday’s press conference, jokingly boasting: “OK. So I get to go home and tell my kids that BTS opened for me. I did not expect that when I woke up this morning.”
Though BTS’ management maintains tight control of the group’s public image, statements and politics, the band broke from convention in 2020 and spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and donated $1 million to the cause.
“We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together,” BTS tweeted following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
BTS’s fans are also aggressive about combatting racist movements in the U.S., regularly strategizing to overtake hashtags promoting white supremacy and QAnon conspiracy theories.
“They got beaten at their own game by Korean pop fans,” Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher, told Bloomberg about the phenomenon in 2020. “I’d never seen anything like it before.”