United Nations

What to expect: BTS at the 2021 UNGA

Bea Cupin

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What to expect: BTS at the 2021 UNGA

UNGA. BTS during the launch of 'Generation Unlimited' in 2018 at the United Nations General Assembly.


The septet will be speaking at the Sustainable Development Goals Moment 2021

For the third time in four years, K-pop sensations and global superstars BTS will be attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). 

The septet is scheduled to join South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment 2021 at the General Assembly Hall, beginning 8 pm on September 20, Monday (8 am in New York). 

What will they do there? 

According to the latest schedule from the United Nations, BTS – Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook – will deliver remarks and a performance (likely taped) after Moon’s remarks.

Before Moon and BTS, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierres, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid, and Global Head of Policy and Thought Leadership at The Economist Group Claire Casey will speak. 

Why are they there? 

BTS is no stranger to working with the UN. 

In 2017, they partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF, a UN agency that gives humanitarian and developmental aid to children across the world. The 2017 campaign was for “LOVE MYSELF.” A year later in 2018, the group spoke before the UN to launch UNICEF’s “Generation Unlimited” campaign.

In 2020, over 6 months after the COVID-19 pandemic brought most of the world to a halt, BTS delivered a taped messaged at a high-level side event, organized by the South Korea-initiated Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security. 

In that message, all seven members took turns sharing their own experiences while in lockdown, while urging the youth not to lose hope and to “reimagine our world.” 

Prior to BTS’s recorded message in 2020, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore highlighted how pandemic measures – closing down schools, home quarantines, and isolation – took their toll on the mental health of children, adolescents, and the youth. 

This time, BTS is in the UN as Korea’s Special Envoy for Future Generations and Culture.

“It is a huge honor, both as an individual and a citizen, to be able to hold the title of special presidential envoy for future generations and culture,” said BTS member Kim Nam-joon (better known as RM) at a special ceremony ahead of their trip to New York, according to the Korean Herald

During the ceremony, all seven members were given diplomatic passports and fountain pens. 

Ahead of the UNGA, BTS’s official Twitter account called on fans to share their experiences from the past two years. “What’s your world like today? Express the precious things that make up your world or show who you are now with an image, an emoji or a word. At the UN, your stories will begin,” said the group in the tweet. 

Tweets shared using the hashtags #YouthToday #YourStories may be used in later BTS content, added the group – perhaps for future campaigns for the UN? 

What is SDG Moment? 

The Sustainable Development Goals are the UN’s “blueprint” for “fighting poverty and hunger, confronting the climate crisis, achieving gender equality and much more, within the next ten years.” 

During the September 20 meeting, members are expected to revisit, review, and strengthen the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over 30 members states and other stakeholders are expected to attend the SDG Moment, both in person and online.  

The meeting, which runs from 8 am to 5 pm New York time (that’s 8 pm on September 20 to 5 am on September 21 in the Philippines), will be streamed via UN WebTV, the UN’s YouTube channel, and the UN’s official social media pages. 

How is the UN preparing? 

Although the UNGA is an event that regularly sees the biggest names and brightest minds from all over the world, you can be sure they’re extra hyped over BTS’s scheduled role in the SDG Moment. 

In a September 15 news story, the UN highlighted BTS’s role in the “hybrid” GA and how the IT team is preparing. The UN release noted that their system was “struggling to cope” because of the wild internet traffic during BTS’s visit in 2018 and when their video message was released during the 2020 virtual GA. 

Finally, who is BTS? 

If you’ve read this far into this story, chances are you don’t need any introduction to the group. But in case you need a refresher, here goes:

Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook form the South Korea-based BTS. The grouped debuted on June 12, 2013 via the release of their debut single album, 2 Cool 4 Skool. They’ve since rose to fame and are now considered among the most popular pop groups ever.  

The group’s work with the UN first perfectly into their concept concept from day one, as articulated by Bit Hit Music and Hybe Corporation founder Bang Si-hyuk. 

“What kind of hero is the youth of today looking for? Not someone who dogmatically preaches from above. Rather, it seems like they need a hero who can lend them a shoulder to lean on, even without speaking a single word,” said Bang, recalling a company document from the year before their debut. – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.