The organiser of a Blackpink concert in Hanoi has apologised after its website featured a map showing China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, prompting a backlash on social media.
K-pop megastar girl group Blackpink is due to host two concerts in the Vietnamese capital in late July.
News of the performance has generated a huge amount of excitement in the city, which rarely hosts big-name international artists.
But early this week, reports surfaced on social media saying iME, an event and entertainment company headquartered in Beijing, used a map on the front page of its website featuring the “nine-dash line”.
According to Vietnam-based journalsit Tung Ngo, the labels on the map appear to show different countries where iME has local operations.
China has long used the line to illustrate its expansive claims over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, often to the displeasure of Hanoi, which also claims parts of the waterway.
On Thursday, a day before tickets were due to go on sale, Brian Chow, CEO of iME, said in a statement that the incident was an “unfortunate misunderstanding”.
“The image of the map on the website does not represent the territory of any country and we are aware of respecting the sovereignty and culture of all the countries” where iME has a presence.
“iME quickly reviewed and committed to replace the images that are not suitable for Vietnamese,” the statement added.
It also said it had sent a written explanation of the incident to the Hanoi department of culture and sports, along with other relevant authorities.
The iME website was still inaccessible after the statement.
The apology came after Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture and Information said Wednesday it was starting “procedures to look into the incident”.
During a regular press briefing on Thursday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Pham Thu Hang admitted Blackpink’s Vietnam show had become a “hot-button issue”.
The controversy follows Vietnam’s decision to ban Warner Bro’s upcoming “Barbie” movie from cinemas over scenes showing the same map.
“The promotion and usage of products or publications featuring the ‘nine-dash line’ in Vietnam is a violation of Vietnam’s laws and is unacceptable,” Mr Hang said.
South Korean agency YG Entertainment, which manages Blackpink, had no immediate comment.
Vietnamese fans threaten boycott
The Cultural Ministry’s move followed complaints by Vietnamese internet users who noticed the nine-dash line on the organiser’s website.
Some Facebook and TikTok users demanded a boycott of the concerts.
On the Blackpink Vietnam FC (fan club) Facebook page, one comment read: “In support of Vietnam, we’d better… not attend entertainment shows organised by iME.”
Another read: “This concerns the territorial claim of a country. Although I like Blackpink, we should raise our voice.”
Under the Facebook page of iME Vietnam, Vietnamese internet users posted “Get out of Vietnam now. Hoang Sa Truong Sa belongs to Vietnam.”
Hoang Sa and Truong Sa refer to the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands which are claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.
The world-famous K-pop girl group is due to perform in Vietnam for the first time on July 29-30, having been granted a government license that requested the organiser to comply with the government’s regulations on performing activities.
Vietnam and China have long had overlapping territorial claims to a potentially energy-rich stretch in the waterway.
Vietnam has repeatedly accused Chinese vessels of violating its sovereignty.
The South China Sea is home to valuable oil and gas deposits and shipping lanes, and several of China’s neighbours have voiced concern that Beijing is seeking to expand its reach.
Source: ABC Net