Korean band wades into controversy with Chinese netizens over panda touch


Grabs from the clip that caused uproar among Chinese netizens

Grabs from the clip that caused uproar among Chinese netizens (Soompi)

SEOUL: More than 750 million social media users have followed or been involved in a zoo controversy sparked when K-pop girl band Blackpink touched a mother panda and cuddled a baby panda with their make-up on.

The controversy was sparked after a teaser for the final episode of “24/365 with BLACKPINK” was uploaded. In the video, the band members Jisoo, 25, Jennie, 24, Rose, 23, and Lisa,23, were shown at a theme park in the Korean capital Seoul visiting Fu Bao, the first panda to be born in South Korea about three months ago. The girls checked on the mother panda’s health by inspecting her palm under a zookeeper’s instructions. Jennie carried the baby panda.

Pandas are China’s national treasure, and many Chinese people were angered by the scene, stating that pandas are animals that require delicate care.

However, Chinese netizens launched virulent comments and insisted the band members should not have been worn make-up because “cosmetics might cause irritations for the baby panda due to its low immunity.”

They argued that the members did not wear face masks while preparing the food and that Jennie and Rose did not wear face masks or gloves while touching the mother panda’s palm.

They called for apologies from the band and for straight explanations from the zoo.

The netizens emphasized that in China, where pandas are a national treasure, only zookeepers are allowed to touch them to reduce the possibility of infections and unintentional harm.

South Koreans rejected the accusations, explaining that the girls followed the instructions of the zookeeper and that they sanitised their hands during the recording of the clip.

Answering a media user who wondered what the fuss was about especially that the band members “handled the panda with care”, TaetaesTot, a commentator, explained that “it is part of the agreement between China and all nations who are hosting pandas in their facilities.”

“All pandas belong to China per the UN mandate of endangered species. Zoos and other animal sanctuaries have to pay a fee to the Chinese government to have a panda in their country. All members of the world nations agreed that the only human contact with the pandas must be the certified veterinarians that work in the enclosures.

“If this rule is broken, the country can lose all rights to the pandas. The pandas will be removed from that country and placed in a different one for their protection. Korea could very well lose the right to have any pandas in any of their zoos and sanctuaries because of this mistake. It is very serious not only for the pandas and their vet team, but also the fragile diplomatic relationship China has with Korea.”

According to Soompi, an English-language website providing coverage of Korean pop culture, the China Wildlife Conservation Association sent a letter to Everland, the theme park where the panda is being cared for, and demanded that they halt having non-professionals coming into contact with the baby panda and showing such scenes on shows.

In response to the concerns that were raised, YG Entertainment said “it was decided that the last episode of BLACKPINK’s “24/365 with BLACKPINK” that was scheduled to be uploaded today on November 7 (Saturday) will be postponed.”

“BLACKPINK’s experience as panda keepers at Everland took place with professional veterinarians and keepers in attendance, and strict disease prevention and sanitation guidelines were followed,” it said in a statement.

“When BLACKPINK met the baby panda, all members were wearing sanitary gloves, masks, and protective clothing, and their hands and shoes were disinfected each time the scene changed.

“Nonetheless, to respect the recommendation of panda conservation experts who have stated that ‘non-professionals coming into contact with a baby panda can cause misunderstandings of a different dimension’ and to follow the convention of international cooperation, we have decided to postpone the premiere of the video.

“We thank all those who expressed their concern, and we ask for your unchanged love and interest in BLACKPINK and the panda.”

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