Beijing diplomats brush away K-pop Korean war controversy, saying relations are harmonious

South China Morning Post

Posted at Oct 22 2020 06:51 AM

Chinese diplomats have denied reports that Beijing has restricted imports of products related to K-pop band BTS and instead stressed the peace and friendship between China and South Korea.

"Customs and other government departments have not issued such a policy," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily media briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

"Our position of supporting and promoting friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and South Korea remains unchanged, and we don't want similar irresponsible reports and comments to interfere with relations between the two countries," he said.

Wang Wei, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Seoul, had earlier expressed a similar view, saying China attached great importance to bilateral relations. He highlighted cooperation between the two countries in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic as an example of the continuing harmony.

BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member South Korean boy band that formed in 2010 and debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. The band faced a backlash from Chinese internet users this month after their lead singer made remarks about the 1950-53 Korean war, in which China and North Korea fought against South Korean and United States forces.

On October 7, while receiving an award from US-based non-profit organisation The Korea Society for their contributions to South Korea-US relations, BTS leader RM spoke of a "history of pain" shared between South Korea and the US in relation to the war.

"We will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifice of countless men and women," he said in English during a virtual ceremony.

Some web users took offense, claiming BTS had "humiliated China" by not recognizing the sacrifices of Chinese soldiers. Others said BTS should not profit from China if they did not consider Chinese feelings.

It was not the first time a Korean celebrity had come under fire in China. In August, popular singer Lee Hyori was attacked after suggesting "Mao" as her stage name on MBC's reality show Hangout with Yoo. Chinese internet users claimed Lee was mocking the late communist leader Mao Zedong in making such a suggestion.

Four years ago, Beijing unofficially imposed a K-pop ban after Seoul allowed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, a US anti-missile shield, in the country. South Korean stars were not invited to appear on Chinese television shows and cooperation on joint projects was diminished. In addition, some Chinese consumers called for a boycott of South Korean goods.

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