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BTS fans call on music label to sack US CEO over Gaza stance

Fans of K-pop group accuse Scooter Braun of supporting Israel as they campaign for divesting from 'Zionists in the industry'
An Indonesian fan of K-pop boy band BTS poses with a poster in Jakarta, on 21 June 2021 (Goh Chai Hin/AFP)

Fans of the K-pop boy band BTS are calling on the group’s management company to remove the head of its North American subsidiary after accusing him of backing Israel in its ongoing war on Gaza

Calls for the sacking of Scooter Braun, CEO of Hybe-America, come as part of a wider movement among K-pop fans to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

On 23 February, some fans sent a truck to the headquarters of Hybe in central Seoul, urging the company to divest from “Zionism and Zionists in the industry”, according to the Korea Times. 

A screen on the truck displayed several demands alongside clips of the devastation in Gaza. One video appears to show BTS merchandise found among the rubble, with a caption reading: “They could’ve been your friend.”

"If our demands are not met, ARMY [BTS fans] will continue to push for you to meet our demands. Do not look away when the same thing that happened to your Korean ancestors is happening to Palestinians,” the message displayed on the truck added. 

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“We ask that you stand for humanity, for the right side of history and against violence.”

In a letter-writing campaign directed at Hybe, fans accuse Braun of making comments or posts on social media that legitimise Israel’s violence in Gaza or obfuscate the realities of Palestinians living under occupation. 

In December of last year, Braun spoke at a rally in Tel Aviv calling for the return of Israeli captives who were taken by armed Palestinian groups during the 7 October attacks on southern Israel, in which over 1,100 Israelis were killed. 

“I had to come and stand with my people,” he is quoted as saying.

Hybe distanced itself from Braun's comments at the time, according to reports, saying: "It is a personal statement that is separate from company management."

The label has not made any further comments.

‘Big four boycott’

The truck was the latest in a series of actions K-pop fans have taken as part of pro-Palestine activism since the start of Israel’s war on the besieged enclave. 

Israeli attacks since 7 October have killed over 30,000 people and wounded 70,000 more, according to the latest update by the Palestinian health ministry. 

Collective social media efforts have included dedicated K-pop fan pages, such as the @ARMY4Palestine on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, an online petition, as well as the use of several hashtags. 

BTS is the world's most influential K-pop group, with over 352 million followers globally. The group's management company had its annual sales soar to $1.6bn (2.17 trillion won) in 2023, an achievement no other K-pop agency has reached. 

BDS Korea, otherwise known as the Palestine Peace & Solidarity in South Korea (PPS), has also supported the recent campaign.

Boycotts have also targeted the "big four" of the industry - YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment and HYBE - with hashtags such as #StrikeAgainstThe4.

Fans have also criticised other Israeli and pro-Israel figures, such as American record producer Benny Blanco and Israeli record producer and songwriter Omer Fedi, who have worked alongside BTS and their individual members. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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