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The K-pop idols' "Permission to Dance" video, recorded in the General Assembly hall, racked up more than 10 million views on the UN’s YouTube channel.
For seven minutes on September 20, 2021, up to a million people from around the world watched a livestream broadcast from the UN's YouTube channel. The unique digital performance was punctuated by many comments and purple heart emojis in the live chat by fans from around the world.
This was no run-of-the-mill address at the UN General Assembly in New York. It was an address by the world's biggest boy band: the seven-member K-pop sensation BTS.
As the first K-pop band to address the UN, the fully vaccinated group touched on topics that have an impact on youth, ranging from self-love and acceptance to embracing change post-COVID.
Introduced by South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, who had appointed BTS as Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture, the group's members took turns sharing the feedback that they had received from after they asked fans through social media platforms how the past two years had changed them and how they plan to approach life post-pandemic.
"I was saddened to hear that entrance and graduation ceremonies had to be canceled," said Jeon Jung-Kook, known as Jungkook. "These are moments in life you want to celebrate, and missing out on them must have been upsetting. We were heartbroken when our long-planned concert tours were canceled."
The group rejected an oft-repeated description of today's youth as "COVID's lost generation," and instead praised them for their resilience.
"I think it's a stretch to say they're lost just because paths they tread can't be seen by grown-up eyes," said BTS group leader Kim Nam-Joon, known as RM.
Kim Seok-Jin, known as Jin, added: "Instead of the 'lost generation' a more appropriate name would be the 'welcome generation,' because instead of fearing change, this generation says 'welcome' and keeps forging ahead."
After speaking, the group presented a music video for the upbeat song "Permission to Dance," which members prerecorded over the weekend at the UN's New York headquarters. The video features the seven members singing and dancing through the halls, within which significant global decisions are made, and out into the gardens. A crowd then joins the group in a flash-mob-style ending. The video has since garnered more than 10 million views.
The group also took to Twitter to thank fans for their contributions after the speech. "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's estimated fan base — popularly known as the ARMY — is said to consist of more than 90 million people worldwide.
BTS, whose name is an abbreviation of the Korean words Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, has worked with the United Nations before. In 2018, the group partnered with UNICEF to promote Generation Unlimited, a campaign dedicated to educating young people and providing them with vocational training.
Since debuting in 2013, BTS has become the fastest group since The Beatles to earn four US No. 1 albums in less than two years.
In August 2020, BTS broke the record for having the most YouTube views, garnering 101.1 million views in 24 hours with the group's first English-language song, "Dynamite.”The record was topped in May this year, when BTS's second song in English, "Butter," garnered 108.2 million views.
Besides love and relationships, BTS's songs have touched on issues such as bullying, elitism and mental health.