K-pop supergroup BTS made a special appearance at the White House press briefing on 31 May to send a powerful message concerning rising cases of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US.
BTS’ address came on the last day of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or AANHPI Month.
The universally acclaimed seven-member music group arrived in the US a few days ago for a closed-door meeting with US President Joe Biden.
BTS at the White House
What the members said
Wearing black suits and black ties, each of the seven members — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, Jungkook, and V — took turns at the lectern of the James Brady Briefing Room to address the press.
RM, the septet’s leader, was the first to speak after the group was introduced by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“Thank you, Karine, for your kind words. Hi, we’re BTS, and it is a great honour to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion, and diversity,” he said in English.
The other members spoke in Korean, which was translated for the press by an interpreter.
“Today is the last day of AANHPI Heritage Month. We are here at the White House today to stand together with the AANHPI community and to commemorate the occasion,” Jin underlined.
“We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes. To put a stop on this and support the cause, we’d like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again,” Jimin followed up.
“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,” said J-Hope.
“I still find it amazing that music made by Korean artists can transcend language and culture to reach so many different people all over the world. I think music is a truly great medium for being able to bring us all together,” Jungkook added.
Suga pointed at the need for equality.
“It’s not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our own differences,” he said.
V backed Suga’s comment, saying, “We each have our own history. I hope today can be another step towards respecting one another and acknowledging that each and every one of us is a valuable person.”
The concluding remark was delivered by RM.
“And lastly, we thank President Biden and the White House for giving this important opportunity to speak about the important causes, remind ourselves of what we can do as artists. Once again, thank you very much,” the group leader said in English.
The group did not take questions from the press and left immediately for their meeting with President Biden.
— 주한미국대사관 U.S. Embassy Seoul (@USEmbassySeoul) June 1, 2022
Surge in viewership on White House YouTube channel
The BTS address led to a massive surge in viewers of the livestream on the official White House YouTube channel.
According to CNBC, there were more than 310,000 simultaneous viewers on the livestream watching the Grammy-nominated group speak at the White House. Out of them, around 200,000 dropped off within minutes of BTS leaving the livestream.
Anti-Asian hate crimes on the agenda
Before their address, Karine Jean-Pierre said that BTS was invited by President Biden for “a discussion about Asian inclusion, representation, and diversity, as well as addressing anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination.”
Jean-Pierre said that the BTS members “play an important role as youth ambassadors promoting a message of respect and positivity”.
Anti-Asian hate crimes in the US rose sharply following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The incidents prompted several prominent Asian-origin celebrities joining protesters on the streets and using their social media accounts to voice their concerns.
President Joe Biden signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May 2021, giving federal law enforcement the required powers to report hate crimes.
(Main image: Saul Loeb/AFP; Featured image: BTS_official/@bts_bighit/Twitter)