In less than a decade, BTS went from being cut from broadcasts to being tasked to address leaders of the United Nations, along with the rest of the world, with a powerful message of hope, strength, and action.
On Monday, RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook joined the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment session at the 76th UN General Assembly, as the special presidential envoy for future generations and culture of South Korea.
In the meeting attended by the leaders of member states as well as champions from civil society, the private sector, and international partners, BTS members took turns in delivering a powerful speech that speaks both to and for the youth, whom they dubbed as "COVID-19's welcome generation."
Instead of being the pandemic's victims of lost dreams and opportunities, the group lauded the younger generation for finding "courage" and taking on "new challenges."
“People in their teens and '20s today are being referred to as ‘COVID’s lost generation,' that they’ve lost their way at a time when they need the most diverse opportunities and must try new things. But I think it’s a stretch to say they’re lost just because the paths they tread can't be seen by grown-up eyes,” BTS leader RM said.
Jin continued: "I think that's why 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."
Like everyone else, BTS admitted in their speech that the fallout of the crisis also took a toll on them.
"I was saddened to hear that entrance and graduation ceremonies had to be canceled. These are moments in life you want to celebrate and missing out on them is upsetting. We were heartbroken when our long-planned concert tours were canceled. And for a while, we yearned for the moments we wanted to make," Jungkook recalled.
He went on: "Sometimes the world seems stuck in place, even if you're ready to go. Sometimes it feels like you've lost your way. There was a time when we felt the same way."
Jimin likewise echoed that it was frustrating to stay still "when we were in the ideal time of our lives to take on new challenges."
"Here, I'm the same as I was yesterday, but the world changed like we were transported in a flash to a parallel world," he stated.
According to the Bangtan boys, however, the experiences their fans submitted in their recent "Youth Today, Youth Stories" campaign, inspired and comforted them.
Despite the unprecedented crisis upending nearly every aspect of one’s daily life, BTS shared many young people managed to create a positive impact in their community.
"Here we have many who are trying hard to continue their friendships online in new ways, start learning new things, and live healthier lives. These kids are trying to learn new things and trying to figure new things out. They don't look lost," Jimin explained.
"There were times during the past two years when I too felt bewildered and troubled, but still, here, we have people who cry out, let's live on, let's make the best of this moment," Jin enthused.
Jimin also pointed out that more people became concerned over the deteriorating state of the environment.
"Many people showed how they share their moments with nature. I think during these two years, they found dear the time they experienced and cared for nature," Jimin said.
"I learned while preparing for today that there are many young people who have an interest in environmental issues and choose it as their field of study... The future is unexplored territory, and that's where we, more than anyone, will spend our time. So these young people were searching for the answers to the question of how we must live that future," RM chimed in.
Arguing that "our time on this earth is limited," J-Hope urged individuals to immediately take action towards resolving climate change, one of the globe’s most pressing issues.
"We just talked about the things we mourn, and I shudder to think about mourning for the Earth," J-Hope said.
Suga warned that the blow of the new coronavirus is a wake-up call.
"It was time for us to mourn for the things that COVID took away from us and a time to discover how precious each and every moment was taken for granted," he asserted.
Although the delegates of SDG confessed in the opening remarks that health crisis derailed the progress of the 17 global goals benchmarked by the UN, V urged the audience to soldier on.
"I hope we don't just consider the future as grim darkness. We have people who are concerned for the world and searching for the answers. There are still many pages left in the story about us. And I thought we shouldn't talk like the endings had already been written," he pleaded.
"If we believe in possibilities and hope, even when the unexpected happens, we will not lose our way, but discover new ones,” RM argued.
BTS also stressed that every decision we make during this uncertain yet critical period will undoubtedly shape the future.
“We thought the world had stopped but it continues to move forward. I believe that every choice we make is the beginning of change, not the end,” RM encouraged.
The South Koreans emphasized that right now, one of the most crucial duties each of us must fulfill to keep the “new reality going forward” and "create a better future for all," is to get inoculated.
"Some of you heard the news that we're coming to the UN and a lot of you were wondering whether we have been vaccinated, and I'll take this opportunity to say it — yes, all seven of us have been vaccinated," J-Hope proudly stated.
"The vaccination was a sort of ticket to meeting our fans waiting for us and to being able to stand here before you today. Just like we said in our message, we are doing the things that we're able to do right now," RM advocated.
President Moon, who was also present at the SDG session, implored both delegates and citizens to "respect the future generations and gather wisdom from them for intergenerational coexistence."
"The voices of future generations must be heard more attentively and is your duty as the older generation. Fearing change, the older generations have left many problems unsolved — yet the younger generations' sensitivity and capacity for empathy may find us the solutions," he noted.
He went on: "We must not forget, in particular, that the future belongs to our future generations."
BTS concluded their very first duty as presidential envoys with a taped performance of their latest hit single “Permission To Dance," which was shot within the UN headquarters in New York.
The stream on UN's YouTube channel nearly drew one million real-time viewers while tens of thousands tuned in on their other platforms.