It seemed an innocuous remark from a wildly popular boy band known more for its open-armed inclusiveness than for any overt provocation.
But when the leader of the Korean pop group BTS acknowledged the shared suffering of Americans and Koreans during a recent ceremony commemorating the Korean War, internet users in China wasted no time registering their offense.
Chinese social media filled with outrage that the BTS leader, Kim Nam-joon, who performs under the stage name RM (formerly Rap Monster), did not also recognize the sacrifices of the Chinese soldiers who fought on the side of North Korea.
Then came a familiar dance for multinational companies doing business in China: Two prominent brands removed any trace of their collaborations with the band on Chinese websites.
First, a glossy special-edition purple smartphone made for BTS disappeared on Monday from Samsung’s Chinese website and other e-commerce platforms in the country.
Hours later, posts mentioning BTS appeared to have been scrubbed from the official Weibo account of Fila, the sportswear company. BTS has been a brand ambassador for Fila since 2019.
By Monday night, South Korean news outlets had reported that Hyundai Motor Group, the South Korean automaker, had removed advertisements and references to BTS from its Chinese social media accounts. BTS released a song in August to promote the launch of Ioniq, Hyundai’s line of electric vehicles,