Korean pop supergroup BTS appeared at the White House press briefing on Tuesday and will meet with President Joe Biden as part of a visit aimed at discussing Asian inclusion and representation and addressing anti-Asian hate crimes and disinformation.
“While many of you may know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons they also play an important role as youth ambassadors promoting a message of respect and positivity,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Each member of the boy band spoke at the podium – most in Korean – following Jean-Pierre’s introduction. RM, the group’s leader and only member of the band fluent in English, began by thanking Jean-Pierre for her “kind words,” and introducing the group.
“Hi, we’re BTS and it is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity,” he said.
The rest of the group, speaking through an interpreter, said they “joined the White House to stand with” the AAPI community “and to celebrate.”
“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,” the translator related. “We are here today thanks to our army – our fans worldwide – who have different nationalities and cultures and use different languages.”
The group was still “surprised that music created by South Korean artists reaches so many people around the world transcending languages and cultural barriers,” members said. “We believe music is always an amazing and wonderful unifier of all things.”
The group will also be filming “digital content” for White House social media channels, according to a White House official.
Their meeting with Biden in the Oval Office will be closed to reporters.
The group’s visit comes days after Biden returned from his first trip to Asia as President, which included a three-day stop in Seoul and meetings with newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Last year, amid a spate of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US, including shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, BTS spoke out about their own experience with discrimination.
“We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English,” the band said in a statement retweeted over 1 million times.
They continued, “We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason.”
The uptick in anti-Asian crime and hostility toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) comes amid the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 10,000 hate incidents against AAPI persons were reported to advocacy organization Stop AAPI Hate between March 19, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
Biden, the White House noted in a news release announcing the meeting, “has previously spoken about his commitment to combating the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes.” He signed a bipartisan bill aimed at addressing the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes into law in May 2021. It will create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite review of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state or local level.
Biden and BTS, the White House added, “will also discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion and BTS’ platform as youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world.”