Global pop group BTS is meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office this afternoon. But before that, the “Butter” singers made a guest appearance at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
All seven members of the South Korean boy band appeared in matching black suits behind the White House podium, sharing brief remarks on the dangers of anti-Asian hate and the power of music.
Adding to the usual press crew, a few dozen Korean journalists crammed into the side aisles to watch the K-pop kings speak; most of them left immediately after the members of BTS walked back to the West Wing.
“We are still so surprised that music created by South Korean artists reaches so many people around the world, transcending languages and cultural barriers,” singer Jungkook said. “We believe music is always an amazing and wonderful unifier of all things.”
“Everyone has their own history,” his bandmate V added. “We hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person.”
The group did not take questions and left the briefing room about 10 minutes after the presentation began. About 195,000 people were tuned into the livestream when it started at 11:30 am Pacific, and that number had grown to nearly 300,000 by the end.
To compare, the most recent press briefing, on May 26, had 14,133 views.
“I get to go home and tell my kids BTS opened for me,” remarked Brian Deese, the national economic council director who took the podium after the band left.
The wildly popular music act, which will discuss anti-Asian hate with Biden in the Oval Office, holds an immense amount of influence, especially when flanked by its fiercely loyal ARMY of fans, who had already flooded the White House’s YouTube channel ahead of the briefing.
The K-pop sensations and Biden are set 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,” according to a press release from the White House. That meeting was set for noon Pacific and was closed to the press.
The meeting, which was announced last week, comes shortly after Biden embarked on a three-day trip to the South Korean capital of Seoul and met with newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. In May 2021, Biden signed into law a bill aimed at combating anti-Asian hate crimes.
It also comes on the last day of administration-backed Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Heritage month, as noted by Jin in opening remarks, so that the band could “stand with the AANHPI community and celebrate.”
Late last month, the administration issued a proclamation to mark the occasion recognizing “the history and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders” across the nation.
Meanwhile, anti-Asian attacks have increased around the country since early 2020, with some people erroneously blaming Asian Americans for the COVID-19 pandemic because the first cases were reported in China.
During 2020, the first year of the pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 76% in Los Angeles County alone. A March survey found that two-thirds of Asian Americans in the county are worried about being a victim of a racial attack.
“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 [sic] once again, ”said Jimin.
J-Hope said that the band was at the White House “thanks to our Army – our fans – worldwide who have different nationalities and cultures and use different languages” and that the band is “truly and always grateful.”
Though some critics online questioned the timingthe group’s fanbase praised the Biden visit.
“Even the White House knows @BTS_twt global influence!” tweeted a fan after the press briefing. “They’re speaking up for people like me who have anxiety because of the raise[sic] in Asian hate. As usual #BTS were well spoken and they delivered their msg with accuracy. I love them so much! #StopAsianHate #BTSatTheWhiteHouse. ”
“I don’t think the people making fun of BTS for going to the White House truly understand how much of a milestone this is. Not only for BTS and army world wide but also for the United States Government, ”tweeted one fan after the press briefing.
“So proud of you BTS,” added another.
The Grammy-nominated septet – consisting of singers RM, V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, Jimin and J-Hope – is celebrating its nine-year anniversary as a group and is set to release its next studio album on June 10.
On Saturday, the group debuted its Apple music weekly limited series, “BTS Radio: Past & Present,” on Apple Music 1 that dives into its journey to K-pop superstardom.
Here’s a look at more fan reaction to Tuesday’s White House visit.
Times staff writers Eli Stokols and Anumita Kaur contributed to this report.