Ahead of their meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office Tuesday, members of the Korean pop supergroup BTS appeared at the daily White House briefing with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to address the rise in hate crimes and discrimination against Asians in the United States.
“We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes,” Jimin, one of the band’s seven members, said in a statement through an interpreter at the briefing.
“It’s not wrong to be different,” said Suga. “Equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”
“Everyone has their own history,” Kim Tae-hyung, better known as V, added. “We hope today is one step forward of respecting and understanding each and everyone as a valuable person.”
They did not take questions from reporters.
The Grammy-nominated group’s meeting with Biden, part of the administration’s recognition of the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, will be closed to the press.
In a statement announcing their visit, the White House said that Biden “has previously spoken about his commitment to combating the surge of anti-Asian hate crime.” In May 2021, he signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to “provide law enforcement with resources to identify, investigate and report hate crimes” in Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities.
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 added.
The sit-down comes days after Biden’s first trip to Asia as president. The visit included a three-day stop in Seoul, South Korea, where he met with newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Following a string of anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. in 2021, including the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas where eight people, many of them Asian women, were killed, members of BTS spoke out about their own experience with discrimination.
“We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians,” the band said in a statement. “We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English. We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason.”