PETALING JAYA, Nov 6 — K-pop queens Blackpink have come under fire from Chinese social media users for allegedly “endangering” pandas at the Everland Resort in South Korea.
In a teaser clip for their reality series 24/365 with Blackpink, the members got to act as zookeepers for the day and met the resort’s giant pandas Ai Bao and Le Bao, who are on loan as part of China’s panda diplomacy programme.
Member Jennie was also seen cradling three-month-old panda cub Fu Bao, the first panda to be born on South Korean soil.
While the comments on YouTube were mostly positive, the video has incensed Chinese social media users who accused Blackpink of violating regulations by coming into close contact with the pandas.
The members had worn face masks and protective gowns when handling Fu Bao but some people claimed that there was still a risk of transmitting zoonotic infections as the girls own pet dogs and cats.
Chinese social media users referenced an incident in 2015 where four giant pandas died at a breeding centre in Sichuan after contracting the canine distemper virus which is commonly associated with wild and domesticated dogs.
Critics added that only professional handlers should be allowed to touch the pandas and that the Blackpink members should have never been in physical contact with them in the first place.
One Weibo comment suggesting that even the girls’ make-up would further harm the panda cub received 27,000 likes.
“Giving such a weak baby panda to people who are wearing makeup and perfume.
“The zoo and (Blackpink’s) agency (YG Entertainment) are both dead,” said the user based on translations by Koreaboo.
Another person criticised Everland Resort and YG Entertainment for allowing the alleged misconduct to happen and said that all parties should be held accountable if the rules were truly ignored.
“It’s true that Blackpink didn’t know and it’s right that the caretakers are the main cause but if this results in the panda getting sick, Blackpink also can’t get away with it.
“They touched the panda, so don’t give them special rights just because they’re celebrities,” read one comment with over 138,000 likes.
Some Koreans have theorised out that the harsh criticism is rooted in an ongoing cultural war between China and South Korea.
The controversy cropped up last month when BTS leader RM made comments about the Korean War that were seen as “one-sided” by Chinese social media users.
“The Chinese are jealous that the artist of our country is so successful. They attacked BTS, now they’re attacking Blackpink,” said one Korean Naver user, based on translations by Allkpop.
“Even if Blackpink touched them with gloves on, the Chinese people would still have complained. Either way, they’re just out to attack Korea,” wrote another.