Sections: Southeast Asia

South Korean band’s motivational UN speech transcends race and gender identity

by Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)

K-pop sensation BTS embraced self-love and encouraged young people around the world to “speak themselves” regardless of their origin, skin color and gender identity, in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday.

Kim Nam-joon, better known as RM, said, “No matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself,” expressing support for sexual minorities.

The group’s six-minute speech kicked off the launch of the UN’s new youth initiative Generation Unlimited, a program designed to tackle the global education crisis and make education more accessible for young people.

BTS is the first South Korean act to address a UN session. During the speech, Kim reminisced about his happy childhood in the city of Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, in South Korea before he began to worry about what other people would think and eventually “shut out” his own voice.

Monday’s speech saw BTS become one of the few K-pop acts to express support for sexual minorities.

In contrast to how open many American pop singers are about their political views, K-pop acts are often careful about expressing their views when it comes to topics like gender identity.

South Korea’s first lady Kim Jung-sook, who sat next to BTS during the event, said she was proud of the group and congratulated it for topping Billboard’s albums chart.

The first lady also thanked the band for lending strength to young people who struggle with fears and worries about their future, through its music.

Meanwhile, fans took to Twitter with #BTSxUnitedNations.

“Words can’t describe how proud I am to be a fan of such an amazing, well rounded, hard-working and inspiring group who are doing their best to make a world a better place,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another user wrote, “People should start realising that BTS isn’t your typical boy group, but more of a movement to the youth. They’ve been using their platform to speak on issues they believe in, including the hardships they’ve gone through as an idol and individually.

The UN’s choice of BTS as a speaker was not a coincidence as the group has been advocating self-love for quite some time.

In November, BTS and its label launched the two-year anti-violence donation campaign “Love Myself” designed to help UNICEF’s global campaign “#ENDviolence.”

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