In a world scourged by a pandemic, a “welcome generation” was born, and they have permission to dance into this bright future that awaits them. This was the message of BTS, global superstars and South Korean special presidential envoys for future generations and culture.
As expected, BTS once again brought joy and optimism when they appeared at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly 76th session in New York City on September 20, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment 2021.
The seven members of BTS—RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook—gave a nearly seven-minute speech, each member delivering a part of the message, where they called today’s youth the “welcome generation,” not the “lost generation,” and emphasized their mission with a pre-recorded performance of their hit single, Permission to Dance.
“I hope we can fill each of our days to the brim with positive energy. We thought the world had stopped, but it continues to move forward.”
— United Nations (@UN) September 21, 2021
The symbolism isn’t lost on us: BTS, dapper in suits and crisp white dress shirts, sang Permission to Dance—in the UN headquarters no less, starting from the general assembly hall, to the foyer, then bursting out of the building through seven doors, before heading to a park at the UN compound accompanied by a dancing, cheering crowd.
The sun shone, and the skies were blue, as if to assure the millions watching the livestream: the day will come when the world can sing and dance again.
It’s noteworthy that BTS was the first Asian act to do this at the UN, in a time of pervasive Asian hate and racism in the West.
Speaking before world leaders, UN officials, and millions around the world who tuned in online, BTS did not sugarcoat the predicament of today’s youth, but emphasized the young people’s positivity and courage in these trying times.
For this, BTS said, today’s youth should be called the “Welcome Generation, because instead of fearing change, this generation says ‘welcome,’ and keeps on forging ahead.”
RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook are undoubtedly among the leaders of the “Welcome Generation.” Aged 24 to 29, BTS are millennials and GenZs who have consciously lifted their fans’ weary spirits since the pandemic began last year, even as they themselves have always said they felt “bewildered and troubled” by the global health crisis.
Your participation made this speech possible.
We were thrilled to have the honor of telling the world the stories of #YouthToday together with you.
We will always be by your side.#YourStories are just beginning.#BTS #방탄소년단 pic.twitter.com/hdNF2QY6jA
— BTS_official (@bts_bighit) September 20, 2021
Dapper in suits and crisp white dress shirts, BTS sang ‘Permission to Dance’ with the UN headquarters as backdrop
For the past year and a half, BTS have been doing the heavy lifting to bring the young and old out of their misery. The boys gave us Dynamite, Life Goes On, Butter, and Permission to Dance—all well thought-out, yet profound in their simple message of hope.
BTS continued to be on social media, where they have been years before the pandemic, but more so now that they couldn’t see their fans face-to-face. From their livestreams and their weekly variety show (Run BTS), to their online concerts and selfies, BTS are always genuine people who laugh, sing, dance, bicker, then laugh again. That’s enough of a balm to soothe our tired, faltering souls.
More people got to know BTS, their music and artistry—and realized how much they needed these in their lives.
BTS’ participation at the SGD Moment was their third in the UN, which has always known and understood the breadth and depth of the South Korean band’s influence among the youth. BTS first spoke at the launch of UN’s #Youth2030 in 2018 at the UN Headquarters, where they called on young people to love themselves and speak for change. In 2020, at the height of the global lockdowns, BTS rallied the world and declared, “Life goes on” in the virtual gathering for the 75th session of the UNGA.
Perhaps the UN couldn’t over-emphasize BTS’ presence at the SDG Moment this year: the targets of the 17 goals for 2030 have been pushed back by the pandemic. With BTS in the UN, they made millions of fans aware of this concern and the importance of the global effort to end poverty and hunger, promote quality education and gender equality, reduce inequality, and support climate action, among others. For sure, the UN is aware of how, inspired by BTS, ARMY (the worldwide fan base of the group) moves into action.
That BTS was going to fly to New York City, their first foreign trip since the pandemic, left not a few ARMY concerned, myself included. ARMY fretted over their health and safety, and were overly protective against so-called fans who broke the ARMY cardinal rule to respect the boys’ space by insisting on seeing them at the airport and going to their hotel.
But BTS soothed our worries when they said in their speech that the seven of them are vaccinated. Now, despite lingering concerns (can’t take that away from fussy noonas and titas), we are happy to see that BTS enjoyed their tour of the Metropolitan Museum with South Korea’s First Lady Kim Jung-sook, a certified ARMY and herself a classical singer.
BTS said that the vaccination was “sort of a ticket” to meet their fans who have been waiting for them. It was also how they were able to stand before the world’s leaders at the UNGA to deliver their message. BTS have become the biggest voice for vaccination.
When people thought the world has stopped, “it continues to move forward,” BTS said. “Every choice we make is the beginning of change, not the end.”
There is hope, they said, “that in this nascent new world, we can all say to each other, ‘Welcome.’”