Why Some BTS Fans Are Angry About the MTV VMA K-Pop Category, Calling it Racist

The Bangtan Boys, more popularly known as BTS, have started taking over the world. After a wildly successful world tour, their popularity has reached peak levels. In fact, they’ve been breaking records for some time now — and most recently, Jimin became the first Korean artist to achieve 50 million streams on three separate songs.

As awards season rolls around, BTS is receiving plenty of recognition — they were just lauded with several different awards at the M2 x Genie awards in Seoul. Now, the 2019 MTV VMAs are right around the corner, and BTS has been nominated for four different awards. However, some members of BTS’ Army are feeling a little miffed with their entry into the newly created “K-Pop” category. 

BTS is breaking records 

V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, and J-Hope of BTS
V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, and J-Hope of BTS | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for ESB

As their popularity has grown across the globe, BTS has been able to smash some pretty impressive records. Two major upsets come to mind — BTS has managed to tie with The Beatles and beat out Taylor Swift on separate occasions. 

The Beatles were previously the only band to ever have three separate albums reach the No. 1 position across the United States in less than a year. BTS managed to tie with them, reaching three No. 1 spots within 11 months time. The three albums that brought them hurtling to the top of U.S. lists were Map of the Soul: Persona, Love Yourself: Tear, and Love Yourself: Answer.

As for Taylor Swift, her music videos are no longer the rulers of YouTube stardom. BTS was able to dethrone her position as the artist with the most views in 24 hours on a single music video. Previously, Taylor Swift’s “ME!” music video held the honor with 65.2 million views. BTS was able to accrue 74.6 million views in 24 hours on their music video “Boy With Luv.”

The K-Pop category nomination

Kim Tae-hyung and RM of BTS
Kim Tae-hyung and RM of BTS | Noam Galai/Getty Images

As BTS obtains undeniable popularity both within the U.S. and across the globe, it’s inevitable that they earn positions in various international music awards. The VMAs are no exception. BTS has been nominated for four separate awards, but there’s something of a bitter edge to the nominations. 

BTS has been nominated for the following: Best Collaboration, Best Art Direction, Best Choreography, and Best K-Pop. So why the frustration towards the new category? Largely, it has to do with potential undertones of racism and separation.

Fans have pointed out that creating a K-Pop specific category seems largely unnecessary and simply prevents bands like BTS — who are breaking records across the board — from getting the attention they deserve in larger awards such as Video of the Year or Song of the Year. The same feelings hold true for the VMA’s “Best Latin” section, which essentially pigeonholes a group of artists into a single awards category, effectively preventing them from being honored on a wider stage. 

Now, BTS fans are hitting social media to express disdain for the VMAs and their new category One fan wrote, “@vmas [T]hank you for introducing the new category ‘best kpop’ just so Asian artists don’t mix with westerners & western artists can get the main awards. you’ve just proven how xenophobia runs in the western industry’s blood and your racist a** is ugly asf.” 

Another fan pointed out that it makes no sense to have these separations based on region, as there’s no distinct category for areas like “British pop.” 

“[E]xactly. 1D didn’t get their own ‘british pop’ category, and 5sos don’t have an ‘aussie pop’ category, so why is kpop singled out?” asked one fan.

Frankly, these are totally reasonable protests. It makes no sense to pigeonhole K-pop just because it’s from South Korea. It’s still otherwise pop and should be granted the same worldwide legitimacy as other forms of pop.

Will BTS make it to the VMAs?

BTS and Halsey
BTS and Halsey | Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

While Army might like to have a word or two with MTV, it’s likely that, given the opportunity, Big Hit would want BTS to appear for the awards. However, after the supergroup wasn’t available for the M2 x Genie awards show, fans are wondering if they’ll appear for the VMAs. 

While BTS did appear in a special video recorded for their awards, the reason they weren’t able to make it is pretty simple — it’s break time! The boys clearly needed some rest after their successful world tour, and it’s likely their families wanted to see them too. BTS is slated to remain on break for two months, during which time the VMAs take place, so there is a chance that the supergroup might not make it to the award show.