K-pop fans made headlines in the U.S. this summer for their political engagement, as their clever tidal wave of online organizing was credited with takeovers of racist hashtags, crashing a Dallas police app and even disrupting President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa by artificially inflating the headcount through bogus sign-ups.
While other K-pop artists and companies made statements in support of Black Lives Matter, BTS went a step further by donating $1 million to the cause — which their fans, collectively dubbed ARMY, rushed to enthusiastically match within 25 hours. The band drew back the curtain on the rationale behind their strong stand in an interview excerpted here, which will appear in further articles to come. (To read the full BTS cover story, click here).
Your donation to BLM was meaningful to a lot of fans, particularly in the US. How did you come to the decision to speak out about the movement?
Jin: When we’re abroad or in other situations, we’ve also been subjected to prejudice. We feel that prejudice should not be tolerated; it really has no place. We started to discuss what we could do to help, whether it was a donation or something else. That’s where the conversation began — just trying to see what we could do to try to alleviate this prejudice.
RM: We were aware of the fans, the hashtags and their participation. It was a decision we thought about very carefully: what could we do, as part of our overall message of speaking out against prejudice and violence? We discussed it very carefully with the company and that’s how this came about.
Do you guys see yourselves as political? What are other causes you would like to advocate for in particular? Could you share one international issue that is important to you, and one local Korean issue?
Suga: I don’t consider ourselves as political. I don’t want to speak in political terms. Ours are initiatives that any person who wishes to live in a just world would want to pursue. We aren’t trying to send out some grandiose message.
[When it comes to supporting Black Lives Matter], I think it’s very simple really. It’s about us being against racism and violence. Most people would be against these things. We have experienced prejudice as well ourselves. We just want to voice the fact that we feel it’s the right of everyone to not be subject to racism or violence.
We are appreciative and thankful for our fans’ solidarity. Everyone wants to live in a better world and try to make this a better world.
j-hope: We always want to do what we can to make it a better world, whether in Korea or elsewhere, and go in as much of a positive direction as we can, whether through our music or charity.
RM: We are not political figures, but as they say, everything is political eventually. Even a pebble can be political.
Our goal and what we really want to see is for everyone to be able to lead safe lives. That’s the motivation for donating to BLM or our UNICEF campaign and other initiatives.
What we really want to focus on now is that a lot of young people around the world are suffering because of the pandemic. We feel that what we can and should do is try to give hope and energy to people — everyone, but young people, especially — suffering from this pandemic.