How BTS Fans Got a Student Suspended

South Korean boy band BTS have one of the most dedicated followings of any current band. If you criticize the group on social media, chances are you’ll receive a swift backlash. What might surprise many BTS fans is that a Vietnamese student was disciplined by his school for criticizing the group. Here are the details behind this strange and fascinating case.

BTS | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

How a student broke the law by mocking BTS

According to UPI, an unidentified Vietnamese boy who is in the eighth grade created a Facebook page called “Anti BTS in VietNam” on June 27, 2019; he reportedly has the initials N.H.M.Q. but his full name has been withheld from the public due to his minor status. VN Express reported the boy attended Ngo Quyen Secondary School in the Tan Binh District of Veitnam’s capital, Ho Chi Minh City. Nothing about his actions were particularly strange, as numerous Facebook groups exist to criticize celebrities and other public figures. “Anti BTS in VietNam” was critical of both the band and its fans, collectively known as ARMY. Students, alumni, and fans of BTS reported his behavior to the school board.

Leaders of the school said the boy violated both the school’s code of ethics and Vietnam’s Cybersecurity Law by using “inappropriate language beyond the thinking of a secondary school student.” The new law prevents Vietnamese citizens from “offending the honor” of others online. There have been no reports of the boy facing legal repercussions for his actions.

BTS in Las Vegas | BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images

The boy was suspended for four days and was forced to read an apology in front of the entire school. The boy’s “moral score” – an aspect of Vietnamese report cards that evaluates the integrity of a student – was also lowered for the remainder of the semester. The boy’s father felt that the punishment his son received was far too severe, noting that discipline has taken its toll on his son. The boy’s father also revealed that he and his wife have received numerous angry messages from BTS fans.

The boy’s punishment and Vietnamese law sparks controversy

BTS in Los Angeles | MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

On Vietnamese social media, the punishment the boy received sparked controversy. On the contrary, the school’s vice-principal, Nguyen Ngoc Thu, said the discipline the boy receive served as a teachable moment for the other students at the school. He revealed he was not particularly concerned with protecting BTS from receiving negative feedback. He also said the actions the school took had nothing to do with the popularity of the band. None of the nine members of BTS have publicly commented on this incident yet; the band’s record label, Big Hit Entertainment, has also remained silent on the boy’s suspension. 

The incident comes at a time when Vietnam’s Cybersecurity Law is being scrutinized in the West. The Washington Post reported the Cybersecurity Law allowed Vietnam to ban a Google app which disrespected the country’s political leaders. Facebook and Google are now required to have offices in Vietnam so the Vietnamese authorities can watch over them. It is unlikely this law was intended to protect a South Korean boy band from online mockery, but any law of this magnitude is bound to have unexpected consequences.