(2nd LD) BTS says hopes visit to White House will be first step toward equality
(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from meeting at bottom; ADDS photos)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean supergroup BTS highlighted the need to respect one another as they made their first visit to the White House on Tuesday for a rare meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.
The group also joined White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a daily press briefing before meeting with the U.S. president.
"It is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity," group member RM said in the press briefing.
RM and six other members of the boy band arrived here earlier in the week. The White House has said the president and BTS members will discuss "Asian inclusion and representation," as well as using BTS' platform as youth ambassador to "spread a message of hope and positivity across the world."
Group member Jimin said the group was "devastated" by the recent surge in hate crimes in the U.S.
"To put a stop on this and support the cause, we would like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again," he said through an interpreter.
Suga stressed the need to embrace differences, saying, "It's not wrong to be different."
"Equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences," he said, also through an interpreter.
Another group member, V, also called on people to respect each other.
"Everyone has their own history. We hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person," he said.
The group members exited the briefing room without taking any questions, while some journalists cheered and shouted their group name.
The rare visit by a South Korean band to the White House was met with fervor, with hundreds of BTS fans gathered outside of the White House.
The White House briefing room was also packed with what many White House correspondents said was the largest number of journalists seen in many months, if not years.
The White House spokesperson said the group's conversation with the president will likely be kept private, but insisted their visit to the White House itself will send a strong message across the country.
"You have heard from them directly about how important it was for them to use their platform to be here and to talk about issues that matter to them, in particular, the anti-Asian hate that we have seen across this country these past few years," said Jean-Pierre.
"And so this was an important moment for them. They were thrilled to come out and make sure that you heard directly from them why they were here," she added.
Biden's official Twitter account later released a short video clip of the president's meeting with BTS.
Addressing the group members, Biden said, "A lot of our Asian-American friends have been subject to real discrimination. Hate only hides. When good people talk about it and say how bad it is, it goes down. So thank you."
In response, RM thanked Biden for a recent decision to sign the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law.
"We just want to be a little help and we truly appreciate the White House and the government's trying to find solutions," RM said.
"People care a lot about what you say, and what you're doing is good for all people," Biden said. "It's not just your great talent. It's the message you're communicating. It matters."
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