On Tuesday, BTS covered Coldplay' "Fix You" for their MTV Unplugged session and a German radio host who didn't like the cover, decided to lash out on-air, comparing the Korean group to Covid-19, a virus which killed 2.5 millions of people. He also mentioned sending them to North Korea for this "sacrilege" and added that he was not a racist person because his car was Korean (spoiler alert: it's not, it's Japanese).
Two days after BTS made a historic appearance on MTV Unplugged, a German radio personality compared the Korean septet to COVID-19. He suggested that the group should be eradicated with a vaccine, just like the deadly virus.
“These p-----s bragged about covering Fix You from Coldplay,” Bayern 3 host Matthias Matuschik said on-air Thursday. “This is sacrilege! They should be sent to North Korea for the next 20 years! … You can’t accuse me of xenophobia just because of this boy band. I have a car from South Korea.”
Except ... it’s not. A quick look at his Instagram page shows off his Daihatsu Copen, which is a Japanese — not Korean — automobile. Matuschik’s inability to differentiate between Japanese and Korean auto manufacturers may appear to be a small, ignorant mistake. But it plays into the xenophobic attitude towards Asia and Asians that has skyrocketed since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. While his reach isn’t nearly as wide as that of former President Donald Trump — who gleefully and willfully referred to Covid-19 as the China virus or the kung flu — his words encourage people to dehumanize a group of Korean men by equating them to a disease.
BTS’ U.S. label Columbia Records was quick to show their support: “Columbia Records stands with the Asian Community and condemns all forms of racism and xenophobia. We must all work together to strive for racial justice,” the account tweeted.
Matuschik’s employer Bayern 3 offered a tepid apology Thursday that downplayed his actions, pointing out that he simply didn’t like BTS’ rendition of “Fix You,” that his shtick is to be over-the-top blunt, and that hurting the feelings of BTS’ fans wasn’t his intention.
Die "Gefühle der BTS Fans" wurden nicht verletzt, eigentlich geht es uns nicht mal um BTS direkt sondern um die Tatsache, dass solche Äußerungen überhaupt toleriert und als "freie Meinungsäußerung" und "Ironie" maskiert werden. Rassismus gegen Asiaten ist auch Rassismus. @bayern3 pic.twitter.com/JKOWiX0yOi— ✜Shuki's Youniverse⁷ | fight mode (@_shuki) February 25, 2021
English translation pic.twitter.com/8hmmE8fAUS— bobae⁷ (@borahaebabies) February 26, 2021
Later, Buzzfeed Germany quoted Matuschik, who implied he was misunderstood by a fanatical fandom that was pulling the race card.
In other words, both employer and employee issued the standard sorry if you were offended non-apology, placing the onus on fans. And what those fans found infuriating and hostile about Matuschik’s remarks is that he likened a group of Korean men to a deadly virus that has killed 2.5 million people worldwide — including nearly 69,000 people in Germany.
There’s an epidemic of hatred towards Asians, fueled by public figures like Matuschik, who almost always claim they didn’t mean it. Can’t you take a joke? I love Chinese food! This one example of racism against an extremely popular Korean group is part of an insidious context, one that has the dual effect of attempting to minimize BTS’s legacy while also laying the groundwork for violent rhetoric and hate crimes against Asian people.
Almost exactly a year ago, Sal Governale made a similar comment about BTS on The Howard Stern Show. “There’s no way those guys don’t have coronavirus,” Stern recalled him saying. Later, Governale tried to defend himself by describing what he saw when BTS arrived at SiriusXM’s New York headquarters.
“I walked into the lobby and it was like Chinatown, out of control, there were so many Asian people,” he remembered. “These people are traveling, they’re not locals, they’re going from country to country to country. It’s a dangerous situation. You got to look at it that way — they’re on airplanes; they’re in hotels.”
Chinatown. Asian people. Dangerous situation. These people. He was describing a South Korean band whose country has immaculate screening protocols for COVID-19, while he was living in a country that didn’t seem to know how to control the disease and dealt with it by ignoring its existence for much too long.
Sources: Teen Vogue, Columbia Records Twitter, @_shuki, @borahaebabies, MTV UK YouTube, photo BTS Official Twitter