South Korean band BTS is facing a barrage of criticism in China after a member made remarks about the Korean War, with several big-name brands, including Samsung, apparently having distanced themselves from the K-pop group amid the uproar.
The controversy is the latest example of the political landmines lying in wait for brands in China, the world’s second-largest economy.
Kim Nam-joon, known by the initials R.M., upset many Chinese in a speech when the band received an award from a US-based organization for their contribution to South Korea-US relations.
R.M. invoked a “history of pain” shared between South Korea and the US, and, referring to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, spoke of “sacrifices of countless men and women.”
The war pitted South Korean and US forces against those from North Korea and China.
The comments touched off heated debate on social media in China.
“They [BTS] should not make any money from China,” one angry user wrote on Sina Weibo.
“If you want to make money from Chinese fans you have to consider Chinese feelings,” the user wrote.
Posts featuring Samsung’s BTS special edition smartphones and earbuds disappeared from Chinese e-commerce platforms Tmall and JD.com as the controversy swirled.
BTS-related posts from other companies, including sports fashion brand FILA and automaker Hyundai, which have endorsement deals with the seven-member group, also disappeared from their Sina Weibo accounts, Chinese users said.
It was not clear if the companies or someone else had removed the posts.
Samsung, FILA and Hyundai did not respond to requests for comment when contacted.
The band’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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