SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - A large "Black Lives Matter" banner draped on the front of the US embassy in Seoul was removed on Monday (June 15) after it was brought to the attention of President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, according to people familiar with the matter.
Pompeo and Trump were both displeased about the banner, the people said. A large, multicoloured "pride" banner recognising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people was also removed on Monday. They were replaced with a banner commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Korean War.
The embassy unfurled the "Black Lives Matter" banner on its mission building on Saturday to support worldwide anti-racism protests that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month.
The US Embassy "stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change," the embassy said Saturday on Twitter, posting a picture of the banner. "Our #BlackLivesMatter banner shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society."
But on Monday, after the banners were removed, the embassy said that US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris did not intend "to support or encourage donations to any specific organisation. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organisations, he directed that the banner be removed." Harris said earlier in a re-tweet of the embassy's tweet about the banners, in Korean, that "USA is a free and diverse nation... from that diversity, we gain our strength." He also quoted former President John Kennedy.
The embassy had displayed the large rainbow flag in support of "LGBTQ Pride Month" last year, despite an order of the State Department not to hoist the banner.
Harris was nominated for his post by Trump in 2018 after a Navy career in which he was the first Asian-American to hold a four-star rank and the first to head US Pacific Command. He was the Joint Chiefs' representative to the secretary of state from 2011 to 2013 under President Barack Obama.
An anti-racism protest took place in Seoul on June 6, with more than 100 people marching in black clothes through the city's central shopping district of Myeongdong.