World-famous South Korean boyband BTS will be joining U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 to "discuss anti-Asian hate crimes" and "Asian inclusion and representation", according to a press release by the White House.
"President Biden and BTS 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," the White House said.
K-pop group @BTS_twt will join @POTUS next Tuesday "to discuss Asian inclusion and representation, and to address anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination which have become more prominent issues in recent years," announces the @WhiteHouse. #BTS #AANHPI pic.twitter.com/Ykm6qtch4U— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) May 26, 2022
The Grammy-nominated group has openly condemned racial discrimination on more than one occasion.
우리는 인종차별에 반대합니다.— 방탄소년단 (@BTS_twt) June 4, 2020
우리는 폭력에 반대합니다.
나, 당신, 우리 모두는 존중받을 권리가 있습니다. 함께 하겠습니다.
We stand against racial discrimination.
We condemn violence.
You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.#BlackLivesMatter
In his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House last year, Biden said that "K-pop fans are universal", according to American entertainment news site Variety.
Following disparate chuckles in the room, he continued, "I can tell those who laugh know what I'm talking about."
BTS fans, known collectively as ARMY, believe that the band unites them all despite their cultural differences, as the group sings of universal values such as self-acceptance.
“Kpop fans are universal”—Pres Biden standing next to Korean President Moon Jae-In. Who’s the Biden speechwriter who wrote that 😂 pic.twitter.com/aN8pmdIHY4— bora (rest) (@bora_twts) May 21, 2021
Biden made these remarks on the day that BTS released their English-language single "Butter". As of May 26, 2022, the official music video has racked up over 758 million views on YouTube.
Surge in hate crimes targeting Asians
The meeting with BTS, which will be held at the White House, comes as the U.S. has experienced a wave of hate crimes targeting Asian people in recent months.
According to research findings reported by Nikkei Asia, anti-Asian hate crimes have surged fourfold in 2021 compared to the previous year, with New York City contributing almost half the total number of incidents that targeted ethnic Asians and Pacific Islanders.
In May 2021, Biden signed a legislation that is supposed to address hate crimes throughout the pandemic.
Hate has no place in America – and I look forward to making that clear this afternoon by signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law.— President Biden (@POTUS) May 20, 2021
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said at the signing that more work is needed to fight racism in the country, NPR reported.
Acknowledging the difficulty of dealing with racially motivated hate crimes, she said:
"Here's the truth: Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — it all exists. And so the work to address injustice wherever it exists remains the work ahead."
Biden's Asia trip
Biden's meeting with BTS follows his first trip to Asia as U.S. President.
He first visited Seoul, where his curt response to a question on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un indicated a potentially tougher stance on the isolated country.
A day after he left Tokyo, his second and final stop, North Korea launched three ballistic missiles from the Sunan area in the capital Pyongyang, the BBC reported.
Prior to this, North Korea has fired at least 16 missiles this year, including one capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S. The country conducts such missile tests as part of its weapons development programme.
Kim has pledged to bolster development of North Korea's attack capabilities, which includes the country's nuclear arsenal, Reuters reported.
Top image adapted via Bangtan Official/Facebook & Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/Getty Images