Journalist Under Fire After Tweeting That BTS is a ‘Mystery to 99.99% of the Population’
By Carl Samson
November 4, 2019
A senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter is facing a new wave of criticism after defending a feature article he wrote about K-pop powerhouse BTS, which some had deemed xenophobic.
The story, which first appeared on the Oct. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, allegedly reeked of Western superiority, invoking a sense of “otherness” that painted the septet as something so alien despite their global popularity.
Seth Abramovitch, who flew to South Korea to interview the group, set the tone of the profile piece with the opening sentence: “The restaurant is called Dotgogi, which means either Sesame Meat or Aged Pork, depending on which online translator I consult.”
He then compared BTS to The Beatles for having three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year, describing it as “a feat that’s all the more astounding considering their songs are mostly in Korean.”
Abramovitch went on to share that he had gifted the members with pins he bought from LAX, including “a Hollywood sign, a Beverly Hills sign, and some other souvenirs.”
“The boys seem to appreciate the gesture, or at least are good at faking it,” he noted.
The suggestion of BTS “faking it” continued in the writer’s assumption toward the group’s stance on political issues. To some, this language is reminiscent of racist sentiments depicting Asians as robots.
“Indeed, whenever the conversation turns to anything controversial — or just slightly provocative — their answers have all the spontaneity of a Disney animatronic figure,” Abramovitch wrote.
“For instance, when asked if they have any reservations about resuming their tour in America during such a politically fraught period, a switch seems to flip in RM’s brain.”
A wave of ARMYs slammed Abramovitch’s article soon after its publication, with one pleading, “I understand you’re The ‘Hollywood’ Reporter, but if your publication enjoys privileging its Western identity so much, please refrain from doing articles about Asian entertainment.”
Others echoed the same thought:
A month later, Abramovitch continues to defend the article, denying its alleged xenophobia.
“BTS is a virtual MYSTERY to 99.99% of the population,” he wrote on Twitter on Nov. 2. “Introducing them to a general population is not XENOPHOBIA. Jesus CHRIST.”
Abramovitch’s tweet immediately caught fire, with ARMYs debunking his rhetorical statistic.
“I know this is hyperbolic, but even as hyperbole it’s just…wrong. Twenty-two million people follow BTS on Twitter. There are about 7.5 billion people on Earth and 22 million out of 7.5 billion is about 0.3%, so, he couldn’t even do the math?” one pointed out.
CNN writer Jeff Yang also responded to Abramovitch’s tweet, saying that the article was not xenophobic, but treating BTS as an “exotic novelty act” is “unprofessional at best and racist-adjacent at least.”
“This was just embarrassing. Any fan could’ve filled you in on a wealth of detail on the group, their history and the cultural context of their success—if you’d bothered to talk to one. And any Korean American could’ve told you what appropriate gifts might be for a first meeting,” Yang added.
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