BTS leader RM posted an Instagram Story that Chinese internet users saw as support for a disqualified Korean athlete.
That enraged some Chinese social media users, and they left malicious comments on BTS' Instagram account.
BTS fans are fighting back by flooding the post's comments with purple heart emojis to drown out the hate.
K-pop superstar boy band BTS is facing backlash on social media in China after group leader RM posted an Instagram Story in apparent support of a South Korean Olympian.
In the post, RM, whose real name is Kim Nam Joon, shared a video clip of the controversial men's short-track 1,000 meters semi-finals from Monday at the Winter Olympics, where Korea's Hwang Dae Heon finished first.
The race sparked debate as Hwang — the world's number two in the sport — was subsequently disqualified for making physical contact with China's Li Wenlong.
Even though RM did not write any text to accompany the video, he posted two clapping emojis and a thumbs-up emoji, which users interpreted as support for Hwang. And that angered Chinese fans.
Immediately, Chinese social media users flooded BTS' Instagram account with malicious comments as well as puke and middle finger emojis.
Some told the band to avoid ever returning to the Chinese market, while others personally attacked the group leader's looks.
On China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, some enraged users also left comments asking for the group's music to be banned. The Weibo hashtags "Kim Nam Joon ins" (in reference to Instagram) and "Kim Nam Joon with Winter Olympics pictures" have each been viewed more than six million times so far.
But there were also many Chinese users who said that they were "confused" about why this had sparked outrage in the first place. BTS has a large following in China with more than 5 million fans on Weibo — despite China's repeated crackdown on K-pop fan groups on the site.
Weibo user @adheretomy wrote: "He's just sharing, he didn't even say anything. I know everyone's patriotism is running high, but don't let that enthusiasm go overboard."
In any case, BTS fans have come to the group's defense, flooding the band's Instagram account with purple heart emojis in the comments to drown out the negativity. Fans flooded the group's page with purple-shaded hearts, a color synonymous with the group as well as the fandom.
BTS did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
This is not the first time that BTS has come under fire in China. In 2020, the group faced backlash over comments RM made about the Korean War, per the BBC.
Another South Korean athlete, Lee June-seo, was disqualified during the same speed-skating race for making a late lane pass. The Korea Sport and Olympic Committee has said it plans to launch an investigation into the two men's disqualifications.
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