President Joe Biden will receive the K-pop megastars BTS next week as part of a series of events celebrating Asian-Americans and denouncing racism against them, the White House said on Thursday.
Anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the US have grown during the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, often called the bug the "China virus" or the "kung flu" and these remarks have been seen as stirring up anger against Asians among conservative Americans.
Biden will receive the Korean boy band on May 31 "to discuss Asian inclusion and representation, and to address anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, which have become more prominent issues in recent years", the White House said.
It called BTS "youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world".
The seven floppy-haired musicians of BTS, all in their twenties, are credited with generating billions for the South Korean economy, and their label enjoyed a surge in profits despite holding fewer concerts during the pandemic.
In March last year, they issued a statement on the #StopAsianHate movement, posting a letter in English and Korean to Twitter to express their support for the campaign.
“We send our deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones,” the statement begins.
“We feel grief and anger. We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English.”
The group also discusses how those experiences have affected their self-esteem.
“We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason. Our own experiences are inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks. But these experiences were enough to make us feel powerless and chip away our self-esteem. What is happening right now cannot be dissociated from our identity as Asians.”
While they also admit it took “considerable time” to decide exactly how to respond to what was happening, they end the letter with a statement of unity. “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.”
Biden at 79 is the oldest person to assume the US presidency.
Since taking office in 2020 he has launched a major campaign to reach out to young people by working with young celebrities and social media influencers.
Biden has received pop singer Olivia Rodrigo at the White House, and band the Jonas Brothers have taped videos with Biden promoting Covid-19 vaccinations.
— Additional reporting by AFP