The seven young men of the Korean pop group BTS stepped up to a single microphone this week, looking familiar but not immediately placeable. They had traded in their flashier stage outfits for dark, fitted suits. And when the leader of the group opened his mouth, he spoke rather than sang.
The blockbuster K-pop boy band was in New York this time not for one of their soldout concerts but to speak at the United Nations' "Youth 2030" event to launch Generation Unlimited, a new UN initiative with Unicef "that aims to ensure that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030".
BTS' message for the world's youths that day, however, was less about vocation than inspiration and self-acceptance.
Kim Nam Joon — better known as BTS lead singer "RM" — opened by talking about his childhood in Ilsan, a city near Seoul that was idyllic, to hear him describe it.
"It is a really beautiful place with a lake, hills and even an annual flower festival," RM said. "I spent a very happy childhood there and I was just an ordinary boy."
His days were filled in with a fanciful imagination, including the thought that he was a "superhero who could save the world". When RM was 9 or 10 years old, however, self-doubt began to creep into his thoughts.
"In an intro to one of our early albums, there is a line that says, 'My heart stopped when I was maybe 9 or 10'. Looking back, I think that's when I began to worry about what other people thought of me and started seeing myself through their eyes," RM said. "I stopped looking up at the night sky, the stars. I stopped daydreaming."
Fortunately, RM continued, he found his "one sanctuary" in music.
"There was a small voice inside of me that said, 'Wake up, man, and listen to yourself.'
But it took me quite a long time to hear music calling my real name," he said.
Formed in 2013, BTS is now K-pop's most successful group, selling out stadium shows where they are usually greeted with a frenzied energy not seen since Beatlemania.
They have been phenomenally popular in South Korea and other parts of Asia for several years.
As The Post reported, BTS celebrated a number of "firsts" in the US over the past few years: "It was one of the first K-pop acts to perform at the American Music Awards in November 2017. The group also made history as the first in the genre to take home an award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.
"Now, BTS, the seven-member group also known as the Bangtan Boys, has made history again as the first K-pop band to have an album debut at No1 on the US Billboard Top 200 chart. Love Yourself: Tear, the group's third album, was released on May 18."
- The Post