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K-pop supergroup BTS meets Biden, speaks at White House

K-pop supergroup BTS meets Biden, speaks at White House

Members of the K-Pop band BTS (not in order) Kim Taehyung, Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jeongguk, Kim Namjoon, Park Jimin, Jung Hoseok and Min Yoon-gi makes statements against anti-Asian hate crimes and for inclusion and representation during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on May 31, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

WASHINGTON: South Korean boy band BTS, a fundraising juggernaut for US social justice causes, met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday (May 31) to discuss hate crimes targeting Asians.

The K-pop stars made brief statements to reporters prior to the meeting, calling for a halt to crimes targeting Asian Americans.

"We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes," singer Park Ji-min, better known as Jimin, said through a translator. "To put a stop on this and support the cause, we'd like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again."

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."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre introduces members of the K-Pop band BTS (not in order) Kim Taehyung, Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jeongguk, Kim Namjoon, Park Jimin, Jung Hoseok and Min Yoon-gi during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on May 31, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

The meeting came as Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander month in May drew to a close following a sharp upswing in hate crimes against the community in the past year.

Attacks against people of Asian descent have escalated as some politicians and pundits have encouraged Americans to blame China for COVID-19.

Group members did not take questions from reporters before going into a meeting with Biden and, according to the White House, recording "digital content".

Outside the mansion's grounds on the other side of a tall black fence, fans who dub themselves the "Army" gathered in hopes of a glimpse.

The brief appearance before journalists itself reportedly garnered more than 300,000 viewers on the White House's YouTube channel, more than 10 times the traffic on a day when the only people watching events in the briefing room are mostly media or political professionals.

It was certainly something new for economic policy advisor Brian Deese, who had been scheduled to brief reporters on Biden's fight against US inflation right after the group left.

"I get to go home and tell my kids that BTS opened for me," he said to laughter.

'YOUTH AMBASSADORS' AGAINST HATE

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 America have grown during the coronavirus pandemic in a phenomenon 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".

Just in 2021, hate crimes against Asians shot up 339 per cent, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

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's floppy haired, stylish stars as "youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world."

The musicians are known for using their lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering youngsters since making their debut in 2013. Their fan base extends into older demographics, tying their spending clout to an Internet-savvy generation that harnesses the power of social media.

In June 2020, BTS fans raised about US$1 million in one day in the #MatchAMillion online campaign for US social justice causes, matching the band's donation to Black Lives Matter.

Kim Namjoon of the K-Pop band BTS and fellow members, (not in order), Kim Taehyung, Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jeongguk, Park Jimin, Jung Hoseok and Min Yoon-gi make statements against anti-Asian hate crimes and for inclusion and representation during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on May 31, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Band members, all in their 20s and who frequently appear wearing earrings and lipstick, have given a voice worldwide 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.

The group's management Big Hit Music said it was honoured to be invited to the White House.

"As we are visiting as artists representing South Korea, we look forward to discussing various topics including inclusion, diversity, anti-Asian hate crimes, culture and art," Big Hit Music said.

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.

These included pop singer Olivia Rodrigo and the Jonas Brothers in campaigns to persuade young Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

Source: Agencies/ec

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