With the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, came the rise of a term used to describe an entire generation — a generation of young people who had lost lives, moments, and actions that made them who they were.
Covid-19 brought destruction, loss, and grief. Our lives as we know it now remains distorted from what it once was. Even as we grapple to understand the detrimental effects of what the world has come to, one thing remains clear; there is no turning back.
BTS were designated as special Presidential envoys for South Korea on the fourteenth of September. This role came with a list of responsibilities involving diplomacy and the promotion of arts and culture. A tweet from the Blue House stated,
“As BTS has delivered messages of comfort and hope to the world over the years, BTS’ participation in the UN General Assembly will serve as a meaningful opportunity to expand communication with future generations around the world and elicit sympathy for future generations on major international issues.”
BTS were also recipients of the Cultural Merit Award in 2018 and were appointed as youth representatives on South Korea’s first Youth Day. While this role allows a diplomatic title for what BTS’ do, BTS’ message of hope begins early. From their music to their words to their letters, it is BTS’ honesty and love that has undoubtedly allowed so many to feel understood from all over the world.
I first became a fan of BTS in 2018. It was also simultaneously the same year BTS gave their first speech at the United Nations General Assembly. It was RM, leader of BTS, who gave his speech then and talked about what it meant to be human and alive and to forgive one’s self that made me remember.
Maybe I made a mistake yesterday, but yesterday’s me is still me. I am who I am today, with all my faults. Tomorrow I might be a tiny bit wiser, and that’s me, too. These faults and mistakes are what I am, making up the brightest stars in the constellation of my life. I have come to love myself for who I was, who I am, and who I hope to become.” — RM, 73rd Unicef General Assembly
RM’s infamous speech since then has been memorized by countless others and studied at schools, universities, and textbooks worldwide. Such is their memory of hope.
BTS have spoken twice at the United Nations after that. Once at the Graduation Ceremony of 2020, an online ceremony to commemorate students who were affected by the global pandemic, and again at the Sustainable Developmental Goals at the General Assembly. Both were messages of hope.
They have also partnered with UNICEF in the Love Myself campaign to support campaigns against violence towards children and teenagers around the world.
“The world isn’t too perfect right now. Times are hard and fast-changing. We, too, have struggled in the hardships of this year and have had to abandon our plans. We were disheartened and upset. There would be no tours. Opportunities to share our passion and efforts with the fans who so fervently support us were seized from us for an indefinite period of time…
We understand the difficulties, even if we cannot fathom their depth. Regardless, we stand with you…We, BTS, are just seven young men growing and learning like everyone else in the world, but we wish to tell you: hope is everywhere — keep going.” — BTS In A Personal Letter for Vogue
This year BTS’ speech focused more on what it meant to be human in a series of years that has changed most of our lives forever. “We could describe it as a time of grief, mourning everything we had lost due to the pandemic,” said BTS’ Suga, “In a way, it was also a time that taught us to appreciate what we had always taken for granted, learning to cherish each and every moment from that point forward.”
“At the beginning, it must have been frustrating not knowing what to do or who to blame.” Said BTS’ Jimin, “Thinking, “I’m the same person I was just yesterday but when did my life become one of a parallel universe?” because our worlds did, in fact, change before our eyes.”
It is not the first time BTS have been so honest about how they feel, especially in the wake of Covid-19. In November 2020, BTS released their fifth Korean Album titled, “BE”. The title describes the state of being and existing as many of us have done in the most recent years and serves as a digital narration of life during a pandemic. The album begins with their single, “Life Goes On” a song of hope as well, and speaks of how life moves, despite our grief and despite our pain.
The phrase Life Goes On was first shared at the 75th UN General Assembly where BTS spoke of how their world has changed as they knew it. It was an honest admission of how hopeless they felt in the face of everything but how important it was to continue to find love and strength in one another as well.
In a more recent live stream, RM spoke of what it meant to exist in a time so difficult for so many. “Every day is a fight not to lose in front of depression, getting exhausted, giving up. Every day I wake up, clean my room, water my plants, exercise. It’s been two years. Every day is a fight. I have to pay back for all the love I get now. After this sick and tired war passes by, we’ll be getting back to where we were. It’s my hope.”
This admission, honest as it was, helped open conversations between fans to admit how difficult the pandemic had been on their own lives as well. It is a difficult thing to be so honest about something so difficult — but for your honesty to inspire more truths and change is something incredible as well.
And it is not simply BTS. Over the last two years, BTS’ fans, known as the ARMY, have come together to create projects of their own where they shared photos of their days, the food they’ve eaten, the sky they see each day, set up relief funds, and talk and comfort one another about what it means to exist at such a difficult time.
At the 76th United Nationals General Assembly, BTS member Seokjin spoke of our lost generation. The term, first coined by Gertrude Stein, was reclaimed in recent years to describe an entire generation of youth who had their lives robbed to Covid-19. While many of us have had chances taken away, our identities morphed and the world as we know it completely turned around, with grief and loss at every corner, it is almost ironic to describe us as a generation as lost when our paths are something never crossed before.
Seokjin of BTS echoed this sentiment in his speech. “We venture to say that the term, “Welcome Generation” would be more fitting than the term, “Lost Generation.” He said. “The term intends to recognize the generation of youth who greet change — rather than fear it — with a warm “welcome” and take steps to march forward.”
V of BTS also encouraged fans to see the future as not something grim, “We have people who are concerned for the world and searching for the answers.” He said. “There are still many pages left in the story about us. We shouldn’t talk like the ending’s already been written.”
While many continue to talk about BTS, one thing remains abundantly clear. The impact of their words and music is something that remains transformative, something that inspires change and welcomes it.
For many across the world, it is BTS’ honesty and love that has helped them understand, persist, and look at the world differently.
Our connection to each other is essential for our survival. In a world like ours, where we’re separated by different barriers, it is what we have for one another that restores us and saves us. It is our own actions, our own thoughts, and our own decisions that can inspire change and hope between us all.
It is our love for one another that pushes us to look out for one another, it is our love for one another that helps us survive.
To give a message of hope, in a time where hope seems so futile, is something incredibly powerful. And something that remains incredibly rare too. It is what BTS have always said. It is something they continue to.
In the ending of their speech, RM said, “We believe that each and every decision we take will not be an ending but a conscious decision that can spark the beginning of change,” He continued. “In a world that is beginning to start anew, I hope that we can all greet each other with a warm “welcome”.
I do too.
SDG’s Speech Translation Credit to @/btstranslation7 on Twitter