South Korea's incoming president faces backlash from BTS fans

South Korea's incoming president faces backlash from BTS fans
South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a news conference to address his relocation plans of the presidential office, at his transition team office, in Seoul, South Korea, on March 20, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - Unhappy fans of South Korean boy group BTS accused President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of trying to use their idols to boost his ratings after his transition team hinted the group could be booked to perform at the inauguration ceremony next month.

As of Thursday (April 7), there were more than 1,800 posts on the transition committee's website, all decrying the possibility of mixing pop with politics.

"Please do not politically exploit BTS. They do not exist to raise your approval ratings. They are global artists who promote Korean culture," said one post.

A separate online petition with the presidential Blue House had garnered some 6,000 signatures since its launch on Wednesday. Many fans also took to the Weverse fandom platform posting comments under the hashtag "#NoBTSforInauguration."

Yoon's transition team said it was undecided over whether to invite BTS to play, having initial denied there was any such plan. The possibility of involving BTS was first disclosed during a radio interview on Tuesday with the official in charge of preparations for inauguration on May 10.

The seven-member group's management, Bit Hit Music, said it has not formally received an invitation from Yoon's office.

The outgoing president, Moon Jae-in took office in 2017 without a public ceremony, but popular singers and actors have provided entertainment at past presidential inaugurations.

In 2013, rapper Psy showed off his quirky horse-riding dance with his 2012 global smash hit Gangnam Style in front of some 70,000 spectators at Park Geun-hye's swearing-in, and Michael Jackson attended the inauguration of Kim Dae-jung in 1998.

Yoon, a political novice, won the March 9 election by a record low margin of 0.7 per cent of the votes, following a bitterly fought race that played out against a backcloth of deepening voter disillusion with South Korea's polarised politics, growing inequality and runaway home prices.

With just a month to go before he takes office, Yoon's low approval ratings could be a sign of troubles to come.

ALSO READ: Moon administration says rush to move South Korea's presidential office threatens security

Despite losing the presidential election, the opposition Democrats will keep a solid majority in parliament until parliamentary elections in 2024, and Yoon must work with them to pass new legislation, budgets and appoint ministers.

A Realmeter survey released on Monday showed 49 per cent of Koreans said Yoon would perform his presidential duties smoothly, while 48 per cent said he would not do well. A Gallup poll last Friday put optimistic respondents much ahead with 55 per cent to 41 per cent, whereas other recent incoming presidents had ratings around 80 per cent.

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