Another K-pop act has sparked outrage in China after members of the globally popular girl band Blackpink were shown holding a baby panda – drawing accusations that they had risked harming the health of a national treasure.
Last month, the K-pop phenomenon BTS were criticised in China after the band’s leader, RM, cited the “history of pain” shared between South Korea and the US, who fought alongside each other in the Korean war. China came to the aid of North Korean forces during the 1950-53 conflict and suffered significant losses.
The four members of Blackpink, whose 2019 single Kill This Love has just surpassed 1.1bn views on YouTube, were shown holding Fu Bao, the first panda to be born in South Korea, as part of a trailer for their online reality show, “24/365 with Blackpink”.
The cub, which was introduced to the public last week, was born in July to parents who arrived in South Korea from Sichuan province in 2016 as part of China’s “panda diplomacy”.
The footage prompted some Chinese media and online commentators to denounce the artists for touching Fu Bao without wearing sanitary gloves, saying it threatened the cub’s health. Some took the band to task for wearing too much makeup.
Users of Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, joined in the criticism. Posts referencing the incident have received millions of views, and generated tens of thousands of posts with a hashtag accusing the group of incorrectly handling the animal.
The hashtags “Blackpink” and “panda” were trending on South Korean Twitter over the weekend, with some users urging the country to return the pandas, while others complained that the animals are not native to South Korea and cost too much to raise.
Blackpink’s music label, YG Entertainment, said it had postponed showing the full version of the show, which had been due to appear on the band’s YouTube channel this week.
But it said the video had been filmed with zookeepers and veterinarians present, and that every precaution had been taken to protect the panda’s health.
“When Blackpink met the baby panda, all members wore hygiene gloves, masks and protective clothing … hands and shoes were disinfected at every transition,” the agency said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, in respect of international cooperation practices and recommendations from panda experts who say that nonprofessionals having close contact with the baby panda can cause misunderstandings, we decided to withhold the release of the related video.”