German radio DJ responds after being accused of making racist comments about BTS

Matthias Matuschik compared the Korean band to the coronavirus after they covered Coldplay's 'Fix You'

A German radio DJ who has been accused of making racist comments about BTS has defended his remarks, saying the group’s nationality had nothing to do with his words.

Matthias Matuschik discussed the Korean band’s cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ while on air on Bavarian radio station Bayern3 earlier this week.

While talking about the track, he compared the group to the coronavirus, saying he hoped “a vaccine will be available soon” for the band.

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He continued to insist that he had “nothing against South Korea” and was not xenophobic because he has “a car from South Korea”. “But BTS actually did a MTV Unplugged – for a boyband ‘unplugged’ is already paradox in itself – and then these little fuckwits are bragging that they covered ‘Fix You’ from Coldplay,” he continued.

“I say blasphemy and I’m an atheist, but this is outrageous. For this, [BTS] are gonna go on vacation to North Korea for the next 20 years.”

His comments quickly spread on social media with BTS’ fans – known as ARMY – criticising Matuschik not only for his racist comments, but for the comparison with coronavirus at a time when hate crimes against Asian people are escalating.

In the US alone, the Stop AAPI Hate organisation received more than 2,808 reports of abuse and discrimination towards Asian people between March 19 and December 31, 2020. These accounts included physical assault, coughing and spitting, verbal harassment and more. In the UK, cases of racist hate crimes against Asian people rose three-fold in March 2020 compared to the same month in the previous two years, according to the Independent.

In an initial response, station Bayern 3 said it had not been Matuschik’s intention to “hurt the feelings of BTS fans”.

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Coldplay share BTS' cover of 'Fix You'
BTS at MTV Unplugged. Credit: BTS Official / Twitter

“It is the character of this show and also of the presenter to express his opinion clearly, openly and unvarnished,” a statement read. “In this case, he overshot the mark in his choice of words in an attempt to present his opinion in an ironically exaggerated manner and with exaggeratedly feigned excitement, and thus hurt the feelings of the BTS fans.

“But, as he assured us, this was in no way his intention. He only wanted to express his displeasure about the above-mentioned cover version.”

Fans continued to call out both the DJ and the station, noting that the issue was not ARMY’s feelings being hurt, but the hateful speech Matuschik had used, which feeds into growing dangerous attitudes towards Asian people in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “Racism is not an opinion” and hashtags about the radio station began trending worldwide on Twitter yesterday (February 25).

Earlier today (26), Bayern 3 issued another statement, this time apologising for the DJ’s comments. “The words he used to talk about the band BTS is not acceptable. And both he and we at Bayern 3 know that it is not enough if you actually mean things differently. If statements are seen as offensive or racist by many people, then they are too.”

They continued to say that Matuschik is “miles away from racist views” and said the station itself “resolutely distances itself from any form of racism, marginalisation and discrimination”. They concluded by promising to work with the DJ and the rest of the station’s team “on the topic in detail and ensure that such serious errors no longer happen in the future”.

Matuschik also gave a statement to Buzzfeed Germany, in which he claimed BTS’ nationality had no bearing on his comments and that he would have had as strong a response had a “German or Trans-Castanian band” had covered the same song. He added that he had “underestimated the huge fan potential behind the three letters” BTS and described the band’s fans as “fanatical followers of a musical cash machine” who he said had distorted his words.

Matuschik said he was “displeased” that his comments were being spoken about in the context of the “currently very popular racist stick”.

Other artists including Halsey have come out in support of BTS following the controversy. She wrote on her Instagram Stories: “This is unacceptable. I hope a better apology to BTS, and the Asian communities across the world, is on its way.”

BTS covered Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ as part of their MTV Unplugged performance earlier this week (February 23). The British band later reacted to the cover, calling it “beautiful”.

Last year, the Korean group donated $1million (£717k) to the Black Lives Matter movement in light of the protests over George Floyd’s murder. They also gave the same amount to Live Nation’s Crew Nation relief fund to help live music staff who had been forced out of work by the pandemic.

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