More than 1 million people tuned in to the broadcast of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly where the K-pop superstar boy band BTS was set to deliver a speech on Monday.
The UN General Assembly meeting is normally attended by politicians and policymakers and is not generally known for attracting widespread interest.
While high-profile celebrities often appear to give speeches in the assembly, the attention driven by BTS was unique in its own ways.
The fans of BTS, a hyper-organized online community that instantly mobilizes flooded the UN’ official YouTube channel during the BTS’s speech.
They took over the chat of the online stream so fiercely during the K-pop icons’ speech and video performance that other users started to remind them to be respectful of the meeting of global leaders, who had gathered to discuss important issues.
About an hour after their appearance amid streams of countless purple hearts that continued to flood the live feed chat the fans finally left and the UN’s YouTube channel dropped to a more ordinary audience count of fewer than 50,000 viewers.
The seven members Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook relayed the experiences of the younger generation, and how their views about their future paths were being shaped by the pandemic. Their younger fans in their teens and in their 20s have spent nearly two years in the pandemic learning new things online, connecting with each other on a deeper level, and studying up on issues such as climate change and how they can make a difference.
“I’ve heard that people in their teens and 20s today are being referred to as COVID’s lost generation,” RM said. “I think it’s a stretch to say they’re lost, just because the path they tread can’t be seen by grown-up eyes.”
They also enthusiastically endorsed vaccines, J-Hope said, “Yes, all seven of us, of course, we’ve received vaccinations. The vaccine was a sort of ticket to meeting our fans waiting for us and to being able to stand here before you today.”
This is not the first visit to the UN by BTS, the face of South Korean soft power. However, Monday’s visit was their first appearance as the new formal diplomatic role a designation given by South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of their trip to accompany him to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The band also showed a video performance of their summer hit song, “Permission to Dance”, after their speech.
Tens of millions of fans around the world responded with pride and appreciation for the K-pop band’s message while social media reactions to BTS at the UN trended in various countries.