Ateez's ‘Work for Palestine’ trend explained amid K-pop act’s latest ‘Golden Hour’ collab boycott - Hindustan Times
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Ateez's ‘Work for Palestine’ trend explained amid K-pop act’s latest ‘Golden Hour’ collab boycott

Jun 14, 2024 11:41 PM IST

Despite its omission later, K-pop band Ateez's latest social media post on X caught massive attention with the Work_for_Palestine hashtag.

It's not been too long since K-pop boy group ATEEZ's eight members dropped their latest comeback with the 10th mini album ‘Golden Hour: Part 1’ on May 31. Following the anticipated musical release, led by the title track ‘Work,’ the octet announced a new collaboration with Dutch DJ Don Diablo. And so, the remixed version of their new album's lead single, ‘Work Pt 2’ was born.

ATEEZ's latest X/Twitter post mobilises pro-Palestinian K-pop fans as #Work_for_Palestine trends on social media.
ATEEZ's latest X/Twitter post mobilises pro-Palestinian K-pop fans as #Work_for_Palestine trends on social media.

However, instead of wholeheartedly supporting the beloved band's experimental musical output, ATEEZ's fans—ATINYs—launched a train of adverse reactions to the creative partnership as substantial clips asserting Diablo's “Zionist” ties resurfaced online.

The tide drastically turned upside down on Friday, June 14 (KST), as the official ATEEZ X (formerly Twitter) page shared a dance video featuring members Yunho and Yeosang dancing to the tune of their latest lead single for the “Work challenge," pushing for their song's virality on social media.

ATEEZ's ‘Work for Palestine’ trend mobilises fans

Although the same video also made it to the K-pop act's Instagram, YouTube and TikTok channels, the X/Twitter post especially caught the fans' attention. Originally posted on X at 9:16 AM IST on June 14, the Yunho-Yeosang Work Challenge video was captioned with the following hashtags: “#GottaWORK #WORKchallenge #ATEEZ #에이티즈 #YUNHO #윤호 #YEOSANG #여상 #GOLDENHOUR_Part1 #WORK_for_Palestine”

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Over half an hour later, a revised copy of the post was edited, omitting the #Work_for_Palestine. However, an army of fans had already caught the heat of the original caption. Moreover, thanks to the platform's updated settings, users can easily access a post's “edit history,” leaving fans with substantial evidence of what had happened.

In picture: Social media screenshot capturing the original hashtag directly mentioning Palestine.
In picture: Social media screenshot capturing the original hashtag directly mentioning Palestine.

ATINYs quickly jumped in to push the erased hashtag further until #Work_for_Palestine climbed the trending charts and gained enough momentum. Despite their cryptic ways, fans praised the person responsible for speaking in support of the Palestine cause.

“I hope who ever did that doesn't get fired,” wrote one of the fans on X. Another one replied, “tweeting workforpalestine then removing the hashtag because its against the company rules is crazy work.” A third ATINY wrote, “Intern nim you will not be silenced we stand together.”

Ultimately, fans spread the word, and similar keywords like “Golden Hour for Palestine" and “ATEEZ for Palestine” joined the trend.

More words in support of the group rose to the top as ATINYs lauded the group for voicing their support amid Israel's war on Gaza, even if so ambiguously.

Multiple reports highlight that Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have been included on a United Nations blacklist for violating children's rights. The UN's Children in Armed Conflict report noted that 5,698 grave violations against children were attributed to the Israeli army, while 116 were tied to Hamas.

ATEEZ fans have persistently emphasised how the group's fictional lore, established through their interconnected music videos and related content, represents their characters as members of a resistance group against the central government in a dystopian setting. The story especially strikes a chord with the contemporary audience because the vision poignantly resonates with the dark realities of a war-stricken world.

K-pop artists in support of Palestine

More praise followed as fans applauded the “brave move”, considering K-pop artists are seemingly contractually tied down like cogs in a machine without much freedom to speak up on political issues that could significantly divide their following fanbase. “Wow @ATEEZofficial started a trend, and waking up their fandom, By adding Palestine to their hashtags??? That's a brave move! Well done 👏🏻👏🏻”

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While several Western artists like Ariana Grande, Kehlani, Billie Eilish and others have visibly voiced their activism and support for the Palestinian cause, with some others contrarily siding with the Israeli narrative, K-pop artists have not had sufficient autonomy on their side to make a move. Despite these unspoken bylaws, several K-pop stars have shown their subtle support for Palestine in one way or another.

In October 2023, KARD's BM wrote on X/Twitter, “While I'm able to celebrate another birthday, there are too many innocent people in Gaza losing that privilege. Please pray for all the lives lost and lives desperately seeking an end to this🙏🏻”

Thereafter, in April 2024, EXO's Suho, Chuu, Kwon Eunbi, and some other Korean artists gained praise for participating in the 12th Green Heart Bazaar, a joint initiative of State Emergency Service (SES) and UNICEF to raise funds to support children in Palestine's Gaza Strip.

K-pop boycott campaigns

Artists hailing from the K-pop giant company HYBE Corporation have been especially hit with several ongoing boycott campaigns, owing to the label's professional connections with Scooter Braun, HYBE-America's CEO. Braun is yet another high-profile figure who's been avidly outspoken about his support for the Israeli cause, which mobilised fans of BTS and other HYBE groups to launch petitions, urging the agency to divest from “Zionism” and “Zionists” in the industry.

More recently, SM Entertainment's expansive boy group NCT announced its collaboration with Starbucks, another brand plagued by severe boycott campaigns. Fans expressed their vehement disappointment with the K-pop agency's decision to collaborate with the cafe company. As the online movement blew up, the commotion would have evidently reached the ears of NCT members.

Despite being away from the music scene to complete his mandatory military duties, Taeyong subtly hinted at his stance by posting a black-screen Instagram story with one word: “boycott." He immediately deleted that story, sparking heavy speculation about how K-pop artists lacked crucial authority in such matters.

Following his example, fellow NCT member Renjun took a similar stand on his Instagram Stories and subsequently deleted the post (or it was deleted by the company, as fans conjectured). In each case, fans did the heavy lifting and spread the word. Meanwhile, they debated how the company could have deleted these stories, akin to ATEEZ's June 14 X/Twitter post being edited.

Fanning the fire even more, an October 2023 message from NCT leader Taeyong resurfaced recently, further insinuating that K-pop artists have no actual authority: “Because I'm a leader, there are a lot of things here and there that people ask me to do.... I'm not the one who started the company… I don't know much, and I don't seem to have any authority. Still, I want to thank you all so much for the many ideas here and there.”

On a similar note, SEVENTEEN's DK allegedly confirmed on a Weverse live broadcast that HYBE “silenced” him from speaking up on these issues. While raising awareness via a comment during the broadcast, a fan asked the singer to raise his hand if wasn't allowed to talk about it: “Dokyeom, Palestinian CARATs are now in danger due to ceasefire. The kids outside are also having a hard time. Are you aware of this and stand with Palestine? If you can’t talk about this, please do ✋🏻 instead.” 

Once he did, many netizens believed it was his way of supporting the Palestinian cause. However, more conversations speculated if this was mistranslated from Korean to English. While there's no way of confirming the conjectures, fans couldn't help but notice that the live video was removed from the platform, only for a revised version to be uploaded later with some portions missing. The comments on the broadcast were also reportedly filtered.

BTS' RM, BOYNEXTDOOR's Leehan, and TOMORROW X TOGETHER's Beomgyu were among some other HYBE artists who went viral for supposedly (subtly) standing in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

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