WATCH: K-pop superstars BTS join White House press briefing
WASHINGTON (AP) — K-Pop sensation BTS visited the White House on Tuesday to speak with President Joe Biden about tackling rising hate crimes targeting Asian Americans — bringing the sizzle from superstardom to an otherwise sad and scary subject.
Watch the event in the player above.
Band members J-Hope, RM, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin and Jimin joined White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during her briefing with reporters on the final day of Asian American Heritage Month and Pacific Islander. Jimin said the group has been “devastated by the recent wave” of criminality and intolerance against Asian Americans that has persisted since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s not bad to be different,” Suga said through an interpreter. “Equality begins when we open up and accept all of our differences.” V said that “everyone has their own story”.
“We hope that today is a step forward in understanding and respecting everyone as a person of value,” added V.
The band members wore black suits and ties and took turns on the podium briefly. BTS was scheduled for a closed Oval Office meeting with Biden later on Tuesday.
Since debuting in 2013, BTS has gained worldwide recognition for its members’ self-produced music and activism, including an appearance at the United Nations. The group topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart three times in 2020 and was nominated for top music awards like the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards.
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The normally cramped White House briefing room was even more crowded than usual, as reporters in attendance to cover BTS filled the aisles along rows of seats assigned to outlets that regularly attend. The White House livestream – not known for drawing large mid-afternoon audiences – drew more than 230,000 viewers before the event even started.
After the band members spoke and their comments were translated, reporters began asking them questions, but Jean-Pierre – who had previously said the members would not answer questions – chimed in, saying: “We are going to go there.” This prompted the BTS members to say “We’re sorry” as they walked away from the podium.
The group was followed by Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, who was there to address reporters after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s meeting with Biden earlier in the day.
“I can go home and tell my kids that BTS opened up for me,” Deese joked, adding that he was sure the room was “also excited” to talk about the impact of inflation on the world. American economy as it had been for the group.
The scene was fun but the issue that landed the South Korean band in the White House was not. The increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination since 2020 has included the March 2021 murder of eight people at Atlanta-area massage businesses, including six Asian women.
In the wake of the shootings, Asian American organizations across the United States held unity events and took to social media to call for an end to racist attacks. Within days, BTS tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination” and included the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate.
“We condemn the violence. You, me and we all have the right to be respected,” BTS wrote at the time. “We will stick together.”
On Tuesday, the group thanked their fans, with Jungkook saying, “We are always amazed that music created by South Korean artists reaches so many people around the world, transcending language and cultural barriers.”
“We believe that music is always an amazing and wonderful unifier of all things,” he added.
Jean-Pierre said the group hopes to “combat racism, xenophobia, intolerance” that Asian communities face. She noted that Biden had signed legislation addressing hate crimes related to COVID-19 and issued an executive order reinstating the White House initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, while helping to promote research to prevent racism against these communities.