On June 21, The New Yorker released an article about BTS written by E. Tammy Kim that quickly angered K-Pop fans to the point of trending the phrases #TammyKimApologize and #NewYorkerApologize. Although the article was meant to focus on How BTS Became One of the Most Popular Bands in History, many fans were upset by the “unnecessary” mention of SHINee‘s Jonghyun and the “disrespect” of veteran group BIGBANG.
When the writer mentioned BTS’s accomplishment of partnering with a worldwide organization to help the younger generation, they also included the passing of Jonghyun, which fans commented as “unnecessary” because the two events are unrelated.
In 2017—the same year that Kim Jonghyun, a singer in the K-pop group SHINee, died by suicide—BTS launched a campaign with UNICEF to combat violence against children and teens.
— E. Tammy Kim
Not only were fans upset by the mention of Jonghyun’s passing in such a context, but they also pointed out that Jonghyun should be remembered for “his legacy as an artist” and his calls for social justice—from supporting the LGBT+ community to mental health. K-Pop also fans voiced their anger over other parts of the article.
while jonghyun was using his platform to get korean laws changed, bring attention to israeli occupation, call out discrimination towards transgender people, you’re out here disrespecting him to get a few clicks https://t.co/aRqq1lpjsO
— 🎲 (@oddshift_) June 21, 2022
if you want to talk about paving the way then lets talk about jonghyun being one of the very first people in kpop to openly advocate for mental health, support a trans student, talk about women's rights and overall use his platform as a voice for those who need it
— A Jonghyun enjoyer (@jonghyunnified) June 21, 2022
The writer spoke with a Chinese BTS fan who felt welcomed by ARMY as a member of the LGBT+ community, which also seemed unrelated to BIGBANG’s publicized situations with Korean law.
An army named Wang in Chengdu, China, who identifies as gay, though not publicly, told me, “There’s a big queer component of BTS. The fandom feels really welcoming.” (Contrast this with the K-pop group Big Bang, whose singers have been convicted of sex trafficking, gambling, and drug crimes.)
— E. Tammy Kim
Fans pointed out how supportive G-Dragon has been of the LGBT+ community, whether it was putting the spotlight on LGBT+ establishments or getting a tattoo to honor them. The group’s past situations also hold no bearing on how welcoming VIPs have been to LGBT+ fans.
Fans were also upset by the mention that there weren’t many K-Pop groups whose sound was centered around Hip-Hop, disregarding the influx of such K-Pop groups like Block B, BAP, and DMTN, who debuted before BTS. Fans also noted that groups like SHINee, Brown Eyed Girls, and BIGBANG were already writing and producing their own music.
It was unusual for a K-pop group to start from a base of rap and hip-hop. …But, unlike at the Korean big three, Bang [Si Hyuk] would allow his idols to express themselves, both by writing their own music and by interacting directly with their fans.
— E. Tammy Kim
As of yet, there has been no response from The New Yorker or the writer E. Tammy Kim on the matter.