|A photo of South Korean K-Pop group BTS is seen through a window of a duty free shop in Seoul, Oct. 14. Chinese nationalists erupted in anger at BTS after its leader thanked Korean War veterans for their sacrifices. AP-Yonhap|
By Yi Whan-woo
Chinese media, along with Chinese social media and internet users, were the first to pick on South Korean boyband BTS over its expression of appreciation for the South Korean and U.S. veterans of the Korean War.
However, after a string of Western media reports on Chinese ultra-nationalism, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) affiliated newspaper is holding South Korean media outlets responsible for the BTS-related brouhaha.
The Chinese anger toward BTS was so huge that Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor pulled products branded with the K-pop band from the Chinese market. The U.S. and Chinese government also separately commented on the incident.
"South Korea's mainstream media have all reported on the reactions of Chinese netizens, with clearly sensational tendencies," The Global Times, the English newspaper under the auspices of the CCP's People's Daily, said in an article, Thursday.
Titled "K-pop Korean War kerfuffle creates unnecessary shrill internet notes," the article said only "some" Chinese netizens including BTS fans "have openly expressed their dissatisfaction and emotions online."
Regarding Chinese mainstream media outlets, the article argued "very few" of them "reported or commented on this issue" while China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs "showed restraint when asked about the matter by reporters."
"All in all, this incident illuminates the fact that select quarters of public opinion in South Korea do not respect the rights of Chinese netizens to express their own ideas," The Global Times said. "In their view whatever the South Koreans say is correct because they have freedom of speech, but it is inappropriate for Chinese netizens to utter dissatisfaction. And if they do, they are dismissed as merely being nationalistic. That's not fair."
"The Chinese government must have been embarrassed by unfavorable international response toward the country and its nationalists," Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University said Friday.
He said pointing the finger at Korean media outlets was nonsense, considering the Western media outlets voluntarily reported on the exhibition of Chinese nationalism.
The Chinese nationalists were angered by BTS leader RM's remark in a recorded acceptance speech, Oct. 7, for an award from the non-profit organization Korea Society for promoting U.S.-Korean relations on the 70th anniversary of the Korean War.
With no mention of China, RM said, "We will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifices of countless men and women."
Historically the U.N. forces led by the U.S. saved the South from North Korean troops backed by the Soviet Union and China.
The Chinese nationalists' anger is believed to be stemming from an opposing historical perspective ― Chinese intervention and sacrifice to save the North and the Korean Peninsula from a "U.S. invasion."
The Global Times accordingly analyzed many Chinese netizens found RM's speech plays up to U.S. netizens, although the U.S. was from their skewed perspective the aggressor in the war.
In a story filed with the headline "BTS hurts the feelings of Chinese netizens and fans during a speech on the Korean War," the newspaper called the remarks one that "reflected a one-sided attitude."