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BTS at the 76th UN General Assembly: ‘Every choice we make is the beginning of change, not the end’

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Sep 20, 2021 11:04 pm

South Korean supergroup BTS once again took the world stage as they made their voices heard at the 76th UN General Assembly.

As part of their new role as South Korea’s special presidential envoy for future generations and culture, the group delivered a heartfelt speech at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment event ahead of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 20. 

During the event, in the sparsely occupied General Assembly Hall, UN Secretary General António Guterres and UN General Assembly president Abdulla Shahid gave their opening remarks.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered his remarks and introduced BTS to the general assembly.

In their speech, members RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jin, V, Jimin and Jungkook each delivered their hopeful message about today’s pressing matters, including the environment and climate change, COVID-19 vaccines, and the youth's struggles and triumphs during the pandemic.

BTS at the 76th UN general assembly
BTS speaks at the Sustainable Development Goals Moment event ahead of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York City. Sceenshot from the United Nations YouTube channel

“Because we can’t stand still where we are in the ideal time of our lives to take on new challenges,” Jimin said. “It wasn’t as if we could blame anyone, must have felt the frustration, same as I was yesterday, but the world changed, we’re transported in a parallel world.”

The members also acknowledged the loss that the pandemic brought the world, and the things that mourn, including the environment.

“Yes, it was a time for us to mourn things that COVID took away from us. A time to discover how precious each and every moment we take for granted,” Suga said.

BTS' leader RM speaks about the youth in the time of the pandemic. Sceenshot from the United Nations YouTube channel

For his part, V urges people to continue living even through the darkness because there is still hope. “There are still many pages in the story about us, and I though we shouldn’t talk as if the ending’s already been written.”

The group’s leader RM pointed out how today’s youth in the time of the pandemic are beyond what some people call as “COVID’s lost generation, that they’ve lost their way at the time they need the most diverse opportunities and must try new things.”

“But I think it is a stretch to say they’re lost just because the paths that they tread cannot be seen by grown-up eyes,” RM expressed.

Instead of calling the youth “the lost generation,” Jin said a more appropriate term is a “welcome generation.”

“Instead of fearing change, this generation says welcome and keeps forging ahead,” he said.

Jungkook and Jimin speaks at the UN General Assembly
Jungkook and Jimin talk about how the youth are finding new courage and taking new challenge during the pandemic. Screenshot from the United Nations' YouTube channel

Prior to leaving South Korea for UNGA, there were speculations that the group have already been vaccinated. To which J-Hope addressed during the event.

“Some of you heard the news that we are coming to the UN and a lot of you have been wondering if we have been vaccinated. And I’ll take this opportunity to say that, yes, all seven of us,” he revealed.

For the group, getting vaccinated is a step for them to see their fans again through their concerts and performances. And they are hopeful that day is not far away. 

“We thought the world has stopped but it continues to move forward. I believe that every choice we make is the beginning of change not the end,” RM concluded.

The group also shared their pre-recorded performance of their summer anthem Permission to Dance, which they filmed in different parts of  the UN Headquarters complex.

According to SDG Moment team, its IT team is more prepared for its this year’s General Assembly, citing that it is expecting a huge traffic like how it was in 2018 and when BTS' video message was released in 2020’s virtual GA. 

Prior to the event’s live stream, ARMYs around the world trooped to the United Nation’s YouTube channel to show their support to the Bangtan Boys. The hashtag #UNGA also trended on Twitter at least an hour before the event began.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is flanked by BTS members (from left) V, J-Hope, Jin, RM, Suga, Jimin and Jungkook in the appointment event at the Blue House where the group was sworn in as presidential special envoys on Sept. 14. Photo by Yonhap/AFP

Before heading to the UNGA, members of the group were sworn in as presidential special envoys by President Moon, and were issued diplomatic passports ahead of their appearance at the United Nations. 

This is not the first time that BTS has spoken at the UN. At the 73rd UNGA in 2018, BTS became the first K-pop group to speak at the UN, with leader RM delivering a speech on self-empowerment titledSpeak Yourself.

In 2020, they were also invited to a virtual event of the UN Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health and delivered a message of solidarity and hope to future generations who are facing difficulties due to COVID-19.

In this year’s UNGA session, many of the 193 leaders from member and observer nations attended online, and more than 30 heads of state arrived at the UN Headquarters in New York to deliver their set-piece General Debate speeches at the podium.

The SDG Moment, an annual event held at the beginning of UNGA’s High-Level Week, puts the spotlight on sustainable development goals, a universal call to action that united 193 countries around the world. 

These SDGs include zero poverty, no hunger, gender equality, climate action, good health and well-being, quality education, and reduced inequality. 

This year, the Moment, convened by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “provides world leaders with a platform to showcase bold plans, actions and solutions that are needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic and set the world on course towards achieving the sustainable development goals.”

Watch BTS' speech and pre-recorded performance at the SDG Moment event below:

Banner and thumbnail photo from BTS Official on Twitter