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|Korean hot boy-band BTS. (Photo: Shutterstock)|
After K-pop titans BTS stated their solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter this week, declaring “we stand together” against racial discrimination, the group and its Korean record label are making a further commitment: BTS and Big Hit Entertainment have donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, a rep for Big Hit confirms to Variety.
The donation was transferred earlier this week, with Black Lives Matter confirming receipt to Big Hit on Friday. BTS and Big Hit are not expected to comment on the donation; contacted by Variety, Kailee Scales, managing director for Black Lives Matter said:
“Black people all over the world are in pain at this moment from the trauma of centuries of oppression. We are moved by the generosity of BTS and allies all over the world who stand in solidarity in the fight for Black lives.”
The pledge comes at the end of a week that has seen many musicians and others call upon the music industry demonstrate support for the black community, which it has made moves to do with “Blackout Tuesday” — June 2, a day in which many companies paused the workday to discuss and strategize — and donations. Warner Music and its primary owner Len Blavatnik, as well as Sony Music, have pledged $100 million each to social justice causes.
Earlier in the week, BTS tweeted in support of the George Floyd protests. “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter,” the group stated.
|The $1 million contribution comes after the K-pop fan armies mobilized to help drown out the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag on social media.|
By that point, BTS’s fan base — known as their ARMY, which stands for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth” — had already spent the week carrying out organized online protests on behalf of Black Lives Matter along with other K-pop fans.
Their activism appears to have begun on May 31 after Dallas police tweeted, asking for the public’s help: “If you have video of illegal activity from the protests and are trying to share it … you can download it to our iWatch Dallas app. You can remain anonymous.”
BTS fan account @7soulsmap retweeted the police department, adding “THAT’S WHY YALL NEED TO COVER THEIR FACES PLEASE COVER THEIR FACES.” Despite being posted by a user with fewer than 550 followers, the message was then retweeted more than 25,000 times and liked by more than 46,000 users — and that was only one of several K-pop fan accounts calling others to action.
Fans began flooding the Dallas police tweet with replies, many of them videos or GIFs featuring K-pop stars singing and dancing. They also reportedly downloaded the iWatch app en masse, creating technical difficulties that crashed it, as per the report on the washingtonpost.
A similar scene played out the next day, as K-pop fans flooded and clogged a portal set up by Grand Rapids, Mich., police for witnesses to upload picture or videos of protests, and a Twitter hashtag created by Kirkland, Wash., police requesting footage of a local demonstration.
The racism within the BTS fan community was pervasive enough to prompt fans to speak out in May 2018 with the hashtags #BlackARMYsequality and #BlackARMYsMatter.
While fans have long spoken out against perceived inequalities of all forms, what’s striking in this instance is how many actual K-pop stars have publicly supported the movement.
Traditionally, Korean pop artists tend to remain silent on political issues.
“Black culture helped me find confidence and character,” wrote BM, a member of the group KARD, in an Instagram story. “I fell in love with hip-hop and R&B from a very young age and it has given me character and confidence.”
K-pop star CL wrote on Instagram: “Artists, directors, writers, dancers, designers, producers, stylists in the K-pop industry are all inspired by Black culture whether they acknowledge it or not. I would like to encourage K-pop fans to give back and show love and support for all that we have received from Black artists. I want to explain to K-pop fans, fellow Asians and non-Americans who feel like they have no connection to what’s happening that we are all connected.”
Though K-pop’s multitude of fans are a diverse community filled with different viewpoints, they do appear to have tremendous insight into how to harness the power of social media. At moments such as this one, this can give the impression of K-pop fans as a singular body.
As Ohlheiser wrote, “They’re so good at manipulating the metrics of social media that people who are new to watching K-pop in action can, on first glance, mistake the accounts for bots.”
But, of course, they’re not bots. They’re a body of people, and people are far more complex than a hashtag.
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