Today is a major holiday in East Asia. In Chinese culture we call it Mid-Autumn Festival. In Japan it is celebrated as Tsukimi. In Vietnam it’s known as Tết Trung Thu and for Koreans, this is Chuseok. While certain details may vary from culture to culture, the common thread for all of us is that this time of year, under a full moon, is thanksgiving and homecoming.
BTS, however, is far from home this Chuseok. Or you could say they are bringing their home to the world. As South Korea’s newly appointed special envoys for future generations and culture, RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook have joined President Moon Jae-in in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Yesterday, to mark the start of the UN General Assembly High-Level Week, BTS spoke at the Sustainable Development Goals session, delivering an almost seven-minute address focusing on climate change awareness, encouraging vaccination, and engaging youth. As they told the audience both in-person and online:
“We are here today to share the stories of our future generations. Before we came here we asked young people in their teens and 20s around the world about the past two years and the world they find themselves in today.”
Here’s my favourite part:
“…people in their teens and 20s today are being referred to as Covid’s lost generation. But … it’s a stretch to say they’re lost just because the path they tread can’t be seen by grown-up eyes. We think that 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.”
Some of us may be too old and cynical now to welcome and forge – but there were a million people logged onto the livestream and more millions have since watched their speech, many of whom have been and will be encouraged by BTS’s acknowledgement of their resilience. To those who are either unfamiliar or dismissive of BTS’s influence and their connection to their fans, it may be tempting to wave this off as idol hysteria, but the reason BTS believes they can speak to the power of youth is because they have seen that power in play. Their fans have not only elevated them to global superstar status, they’ve also mobilised against hate and prejudice, coordinating campaigns to shut down unfair search and prosecution of anti-racism protestors, raising millions of dollars for Black Lives Matter and other social justice initiatives, and more, all of this before and during the pandemic.
At the end of their remarks, BTS played a pre-recorded video of their song “Permission To Dance”, performed at UN headquarters, including inside the General Assembly Hall very recently. How recent? BTS only arrived in New York on Saturday from Seoul. So between the time they landed and 9am on Monday, they and their team rehearsed, filmed, edited, and then delivered the video that was played in time for the meeting…without a single hiccup.
Watch it, even if you don’t care about the band, to appreciate the amount of work that went into this – because we’re talking about several locations, lighting, and choreography that involves more than the members of the band. They end on a coordinated group dance, with 360 and overhead drone coverage! Even the weather didn’t want to get in their way.
And they weren’t done. Through the rest of the day they met with multiple UN dignitaries, including Antonio Guterres:
The #GlobalGoals are the worldâ€™s promise to create a better future for all.— AntÃ³nio Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 20, 2021
My thanks to @moonriver365 and @bts_twt for joining our global movement to deliver that promise.
We can move forward with hope, conviction and each other.https://t.co/3fylFYUksH pic.twitter.com/m5kLCpRioF
And they joined the Korean delegation, alongside President Moon and his wife, at the Met yesterday to celebrate Korean art and artists. RM also gave remarks there, in Korean, and this is key because this trip marks the 30th anniversary of South Korea becoming a member of the United Nations and while RM is fluent in English, he and other band members have only spoken in Korean so far on this trip, both during their speech at the UN, at the Met, and during an interview with the UN Under-Secretary General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming. I’m not saying they won’t speak at all in English on this trip but to me, it’s key to note that during such a high-profile day, as ambassadors for their country, my takeaway is that it was intentional that they spoke in their native language instead of accommodating the dominant language.
And if there was any doubt about the soft power of BTS and their work as cultural diplomats, did you see the new Los Angeles Lakers jersey?
Bibigo is a Korean food company. Their frozen dumplings are very good. But the point is, on the new jersey of one of the most storied sports franchises in America, there is now a set of chopsticks. Los Angeles has always had a vibrant Korean community, so it’s not that I mean to suggest that BTS had a direct and exclusive hand in making this happen, but just a few months after BTS’s mega McDonald’s partnership, you cannot deny their leading role in creating more space and awareness for Korean culture across so many different platforms.
Happy Moon to you and yours.
Yours in gossip,