K-pop superstars and special presidential envoy BTS talked about the youth around the globe and their thoughts amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that has affected the world for nearly two years at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City on Sept. 20.
BTS’ RM, Jin, Jungkook, Jimin, Suga, V and J-Hope spoke before world leaders at the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment of the Decade of Action meeting convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
It was their first official duty since being appointed Special Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture by South Korean President Moon Jae-in last July.
In his speech, UN Secretary-General Guterres emphasized that “our world is challenged like never before. From climate change, to conflicts, to COVID-19, which is putting the Sustainable Development Goals further out of reach” and mentioned BTS.
“It would be easy to lose hope. But we are not hopeless. Or helpless. We have a path to recovery. If we choose to take it. That’s what this SDG Moment is all about, coming together. Coming together to save our planet and each other. Coming together also with BTS today, which is a fantastic contribution,” he said.
He said “we need to end this pandemic. Our response has been too slow and too unequal. I call on the world to mobilize behind a global vaccination plan that doubles vaccine production, to reach 70 per cent of the world’s population by the middle of next year.”
The SGD Moment meeting, according to UN, aims to “reinforce the continued relevance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and build momentum in advance of major summits and intergovernmental meetings.”
It also seeks to “highlight urgent actions needed to ensure COVID-19 response and recovery efforts are equitable, inclusive and accelerate the transition to sustainable development” and “demonstrate that transformative change at scale is possible between now and 2030.”
The 2030 Agenda was adopted by UN member states in 2015 and it “provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”
The SDG has 17 components, “which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.”
The 17 SDGs are No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice Strong Institutions and Partnerships to achieve the Goal.
President Moon and BTS
President Moon also flew to the US and spoke at the SDG Moment and also introduced BTS.
“Joining us today are an exceptionally outstanding group of young men who are connecting with the youth across the world, BTS, in their capacity as special presidential envoy for future generations and culture,” he said.
He added, “Together with BTS, the first ever special envoy from the private sector, I hope today's gathering will serve as an opportunity to mobilize the future's generation, the will and action for sustainable development, and guided by the conviction that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
BTS’ RM started the idol group’s participation and said, “It is an honor to be here today. We are BTS, appointed as special presidential envoys of the Republic of Korea. We are here today to share the stories of our future generation. Before we came here, we asked the young people in their teens and 20s around the world about their past two years and about the world they find themselves in today.”
On YouTube, nearly 985,000 people watched when BTS spoke at the SDG Moment.
“You can feel the good vibes from just looking at these. There were times during the past two years when I, too, felt bewildered and troubled. But still here, we have people who cry out 'let's live on, let's make the best of this moment,’” said Jin.
Jimin stated, “Because we can't stand still while we are in the ideal time of our lives to take on new challenges, it wasn't as if we could blame anyone and you must have felt the frustration here on same as I was here yesterday but the world changed like we were transported in a flash to a parallel world.
“I was saddened to hear that entrance and graduation ceremonies had to be canceled. These are moments in life you want to celebrate and missing out on them must have been upsetting. We were heartbroken when our long planned concert tours were canceled and for a while we yearned for the moments we wanted to make complete,” said Jungkook.
According to Suga, “Yes, it was a time for us to mourn for the things that COVID took away from us. A time to discover how precious each and every moment we’ve taken for granted were.”
“Suga mentioned the precious things were taken for granted and lots of people answered our question by sharing pictures of their precious moments. Many people showed how they share their moments with nature. I think during these two years they found dear the time they experienced and cared for nature,” added Jimin.
J-Hope said, “Yes but maybe because we feel an encroaching sense of dread that our time on this earth is limited. We just talked about the things we mourn and I shudder to think about mourning for the earth. Everyone agrees that climate change is an important problem but talking about what the best solution might be, that's not easy. It's a topic that's tough to make conclusions about.”
“Yes it is a tough discussion but I learned while preparing for today that there are many young people who have an interest in environmental issues and choose it as their field of study. The future is unexplored territory and that's where we, more than anyone, will spend our time. So these young people were searching for the answers to the question of how we must live that future,” said RM.
V said, “So I hope we don't just consider the future as grim darkness. We have people who are concerned for the world and searching for the answers. There are still many pages left in the story about us and I thought we shouldn't talk like the endings already been written.”
“Of course. Sometimes the world seems stuck in place even if you're ready to go. Sometimes it feels like you've lost your way. There was a time when we felt the same way,” said Jungkook.
According to RM, “I've heard that people in their teens and twenties today are being referred to as COVID’s ‘lost generation.’ That they've lost their way at a time when they need the most diverse opportunities, they must try new things. But I think it's a stretch to say they're lost just because the path they tread can be seen by grown-up eyes.”
“Yes, take a look at these pictures. Here we have many who are trying hard to continue their friendships online in new ways, start learning new things, live healthier lives.Yes, these kids are trying to learn new things and trying to figure new things out,” said Jimin.
Jin said, “They don't look lost. They look like they are finding new courage and taking on new challenges. I think that's why 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.”
“That's right. If we believe in possibilities and hope even when the unexpected happens, we will not lose our way but discover new ones,” said RM.
Suga said, “There will be choices we make that may not be perfect but that does not mean there will be nothing we can do.”
J-Hope said before coming to the US for the SDG Moment, all BTS members were vaccinated.
“What is important are the choices we make when we are faced with change, right? Some of you heard the news that we were coming to the UN and a lot of you were wondering whether we have been vaccinated and I'll take this opportunity to say yes, all seven of us,” he said.
RM said, “Of course we received vaccinations. The vaccination was a sort of ticket to meeting our fans waiting for us and to being able to stand here before you today. Just like we sent in our message today, we, too, are doing the things we are able to do right now.”
“Like the vaccinations, efforts are continuously underway to keep this new reality going forward. and I think the day we can meet again face-to-face is not far away,” said V.
According to RM, “Until then I hope we can fill each of our days to the brim with positive energy. We thought the world has stopped but it continues to move forward. I believe that every choice we make is the beginning of change, not the end. I hope that in this nascent new world, we can all say to each other ‘welcome.’ And now, as we look forward to this future, the ‘Permission to Dance’ is our message of welcome that we want to share with everyone today.”
A video of BTS performing their song “Permission to Dance” in the UN General Assembly hall and surrounding areas was shown during the SDG Moment.