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Vietnam ‘looking into’ Blackpink concert organizer over South China Sea map

Vietnam is investigating “an incident” involving the organizer of a Blackpink concert in Hanoi, the government has said, after social media users complained its website featured a map showing China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. K-pop megastar girl group Blackpink is due to host two concerts in the Vietnamese capital in late July. News of the performance has generated a huge amount of excitement in the city, which rarely hosts big-name international artists.

But early this week, reports surfaced on social media saying iME, a Beijing-based event and entertainment company, used a map on the front page of its official website featuring the “nine-dash line”. China has long used the line to illustrate its expansive claims over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, often to the displeasure of Hanoi, which also claims parts of the waterway. Some Facebook and TikTok users demanded a boycott of the concerts.

On the Blackpink Vietnam FC (fan club) Facebook page, one comment read: “In support of Vietnam, we’d better… not attend entertainment shows organized by iME.” Another read: “This concerns the territorial claim of a country. Although I like Blackpink, we should raise our voice.” Tickets are due to go on sale on Friday. The ministry of culture and information said Wednesday it was starting “procedures to look into the incident”.

On Thursday, ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said she was “aware that relevant authorities were trying to clarify these claims”, admitting that Blackpink’s Vietnam show had become a “hot-button issue”. On Thursday, the company’s website was “under maintenance”. iME Vietnam did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by AFP.

Earlier this week, Vietnam authorities said they had banned the upcoming “Barbie” movie from cinemas over scenes showing the same map. The South China Sea is home to valuable oil and gas deposits and shipping lanes, and several of China’s neighbors have voiced concern that Beijing is seeking to expand its reach.—AFP

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