Tao encounter reveals a form of racism

By Nadine Kam I

Recently, former EXO member Tao (Huang Zitao), got into hot water with some BTS ARMY members when he became agitated after some girls in Iceland—who believed he was “somebody” but didn’t know for sure—asked him if he was a member of BTS.

He explained he had been in EXO, information that drew a blank.

After the girls left, he went on a rant to his cameraman, telling him to cut out that part because it was embarrassing to be mistaken for another group’s member, and how EXO was much bigger than BTS at the time he was in the group, but now all of a sudden he was assumed to be a member of BTS simply because he was Asian. It didn’t help that he is isn’t even Korean, but of Chinese descent.

👁 Tao’s encounter:

ARMY was riled by his rant, but let’s look at the situation from Tao’s point of view for a moment.

I get that there are times when people say you might look like so-and-so if you happen to actually resemble a certain person, but in this cases, no, Tao doesn’t resemble any member of BTS, not even if you squint or are partially blind.

Anyone who’s woke would be agitated by the racism at play here.
It happens when K-pop groups promote themselves in western countries. There are videos of groups passing out fliers in L.A. and New York, with people asking them if they are BTS. When they answer no, the people are suddenly disinterested and walk away. So rude.

Huang Zitao
Former EXO member Tao has sharp, hard, distinctive features that have little in common with any BTS member.

The take-away when these kinds of things happen is that there are people who think all Koreans, or Asians in general, look alike, and these people can’t be bothered to really look at them and take note of their individual features, personalities and charms.

To these kinds of people, BTS is not Jin, J-Hope, Suga, RM, V, Jimin and Jungkook, but a featureless mop-topped Asian mob that descends in unison down red carpets and onto their small screens.


I’ve seen this in my friends as well, who cannot even distinguish the members of a much smaller group like Shinee, with only five members who look drastically different. One friend said she could only recognize them by hair color and I had to explain that is no basis for recognition because K-pop stars change their hair color all the time.

BTS, from left: V (Kim Taehyung), Suga (Min Yoongi), Jin (Kim Seokjin), J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), RM (Kim Namjoon), Park Jimin and Jeon Jungkook, don’t resemble former EXO member Tao at all.

Is it really that hard to just look at a person? Granted, South Korea does have a largely homogenous society, and combined with rampant plastic surgery, many of their features are more similar than that of a multi-cultural nation like the United States. But failing to look beyond ethnicity makes someone less of a person, and more of a curiosity or object to be ignored. And maybe that is the insult Tao was really reacting to.

A friend thinks all Shinee members look alike. They don’t. From left, Lee Taimin, Onew (Lee Jinki), the late Kim Jonghyun, Key (Kim Kibum) and Choi Minho.