Ahead of the much-awaited BTS-POTUS meet, the septet K-pop band engaged with the press at the White House, Tuesday. The message sent out was clear: to take cognizance of the spur in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States. Dressed in matching black suits and ties, white shirts and formal brogues in order, the boys held audience at the White House briefing room. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was present on scene. The closed door meet with President Biden was scheduled shortly after.
The singer Park Ji-min, better known as Jimin, said through a translator ahead that the group is “devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes.” To this Suga added: “It’s not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”
It is significant to note that the invitation was sent by President Biden 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 labelled 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.
Likewise, Biden at 79, is the oldest person to become President. He is known to reach out to younger social media influencers to harness their trend-setting calibre in reaching out to wider audience on social and health issues. Earlier too, he roped in singer Olivia Rodrigo and the Jonas Brothers in campaigns to persuade young Americans jabbed against the novel corona virus.
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