South Korean boy band BTS was the butt of a xenophobic joke this weekend, and now the creators have apologized. According to a report by The Korea Times, the Chilean TV network Mega issued an apology to BTS on Tuesday, April 13 after the controversial sketch aired on Sunday, April 11. Many fans are still calling for more repercussions.
The sketch aired on a variety show called Mi Barrio, and it supported the false and harmful narrative that Asian people are somehow responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. The sketch featured five comedians dressed up as the members of BTS, though they introduced themselves as "Kim Jong Uno," Kim Jong Dos," and so on. They spoke in mock Korean accents and cracked lots of jokes about COVID-19 as they impersonated the k-pop supergroup.
their names, and a joke related to the pandemic. This situation is extremely insenstive considering the discriminatory attacks the Asian community has suffered globally.— BTS Chile (@BTS_Chile) April 11, 2021
The sketch caused an immediate backlash on social media, where critics called it racist, xenophobic and insensitive to victims of the pandemic, among other things. BTS fans wasted no time in organizing a hashtag, "El Racismo No Es Comedia," or "racism is not comedy." The fandom is known for being well-organized and intense online, and they put that to use in their outrage at Mega.
Finally, Mega released a statement on Tuesday apologizing to BTS and to viewers. A translation of the Spanish-language statement published by Billboard read: "On the controversy unleashed this weekend as a result of a sketch broadcast on the program Mi Barrio, Megamedia wishes to declare the following: humor helps people deal with the difficult moments of the pandemic that we are going through."
Mega noted that it has a "clearly established" rule against this type of humor and disinformation. It continued: "We want to express our absolute empathy with those who may have been affected by the sketch on El Late De Raquel, and we apologize accordingly. It was never our intention to offend, insult, or hurt any community."
Declaración pública pic.twitter.com/8Cd3ui9awb— Mega (@Mega) April 12, 2021
The sketch hit many viewers especially hard in a year when hate crimes against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants are skyrocketing in the U.S. The recent campaigns to "stop Asian hate" and protect people in Asian communities from harm were a far cry from Sunday's show. BTS has been embroiled in this kind of story before — back in February, the band responded publicly to a German radio host who joked about the pandemic at their expense.
BTS said that they have "faced discrimination as Asians," and endured "expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look." However, the band said their "own experiences are inconsequential" in comparison to recent hate crimes, and called for an end to the violence.