GToday, the White House hosted its first ever visit by lobal Kpop sensation BTS. The group joined press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a briefing—an event that’s part of the Biden Administration’s response to combating Asian hate crimes in the U.S. “It’s not wrong to be different,” one of the group’s members, Suga, said during the event. “I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”
BTS, which stands for “Bangtan Boys” or “Beyond the Scene,” consists of seven members: Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. Named TIME’s Entertainer of the Year in 2020, BTS is the most successful group in the Korean-Pop industry, and the members are no stranger to using their platform for advocacy. “We were devastated by the recent surge of hate crimes, including Asian American hate crimes,” singer-dancer Jimin said during today’s briefing. “To put a stop to this and to support the cause, we’d like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again.”
In the last few years, the group’s emerging presence in the music industry has run parallel to an uptick in Asian hate crimes in the U.S., a country with a strong “BTS Army” fandom presence. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crime incidents increased by 339 percent in the United States between 2021 and 2023.
“People of all communities within the greater API movement should come out in full force to say, we’re not going to take this,” Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit that tracks hate and discrimination against Asians in the U.S., recently told TIME. “We are Americans, just like everyone else. Although we might not be able to speak English together, We may eat food that’s different at home. We may worship in different venues, but we are still American.”
Biden responded to an increase in hate crimes against Asians since he took office. He signed the COVID-19 Crimes Act last May, which aimed to improve state and local law enforcement’s access to hate crime reports, and recently returned to the U.S. from his first presidential trip to Asia.
The members of the group have spoken out about their experiences with discrimination. tweeting in March 2021 to their more than 40 million followers: “We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We were ridiculed for our looks and endured exaggerations without any reason. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English.”
Today, the group expressed their sentiments in English and Korean before departing a packed briefing room for Biden’s closed-door press meeting at the oval office.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME