Korean boy band BTS became the first ever K-Pop group to address the United Nations this week when it told young people to believe in their own convictions and voices.
The group of seven made history by delivering a three-minute speech during the launch ceremony of UNICEF’s global partnership Generation Unlimited at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.
Formed in 2013, BTS is one of the most popular Korean bands in the world, with more than 13.3 million followers on Instagram.
The group previously worked with the UN on awareness and fundraising campaigns. In 2017, BTS joined with the Korean Committee for UNICEF to establish Love Myself, which works with UNICEF’s global #ENDviolence to advocate against against youth violence.
“Last November, BTS launched the ‘Love Myself’ campaign with UNICEF, building on our belief that ‘true love first begins with loving myself’,” said Kim Nam Jun, the band’s leader, according to a UN press statement.
“After releasing the “Love Yourself” albums and launching the “Love Myself” campaign,” Kim continued, “we started to hear remarkable stories from our fans all over the world, how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves. These stories constantly remind us of our responsibility.”
“So, let’s all take one more step. We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to “speak yourself,” he added.
According to the UN statement, Generation Unlimited will tackle “the global education and training crisis currently holding back millions of young people and threatening progress and stability.”
It will do so by focusing on secondary-age education; skills for learning, employability and decent work, and empowerment, the statement added.
Among those attending the speech were UN Secretary-General António Guterres, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
In August, the group broke Taylor Swift’s YouTube record for biggest music video debut, with more than 45 million views of “Idol” in its first 24 hours.
In May, the album “Love Yourself: Tear” became the first from a K-Pop group to top the US Billboard 200 chart, earning BTS the congratulations of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.
Sales from the band’s album “Love Myself” go toward the eponymous campaign, which has raised more than $1 million, according to its website.
During his UN address, Kim Nam Jun discussed his life, saying that he was born in Ilsan, a city near Seoul, and had a happy childhood, but then when he was about nine or ten years old, he started to worry about what other people thought of him.
“I had one sanctuary, and that was music,” he said. “There was a small voice in me that said, ‘Wake up, man, and listen to yourself!” But it took me a long time to hear music calling my name.”
“Tell me your story. I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction,” he added. “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”
He concluded: “I have many faults and I have many fears, but I am going to embrace myself as hard as I can, and I’m starting to love myself, little by little.”
CNN’s Cat Wang contributed to this report.