[Weekender] What’s behind BTS’ iconic message of ‘Love Yourself’

By Yim Hyun-su

BTS’ approach to topics like self-esteem and depression resonates with fans across the globe

Published : Oct 12, 2018 - 10:04
Updated : Oct 12, 2018 - 10:32

When BTS gave a speech themed on self-love at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in late September, fans were proud to see their idols at such a high-profile event that further propelled them onto the global stage.

During the speech, RM (Kim Nam-joon) encouraged people to speak up for themselves regardless of who they are, where they are from, their skin color and their gender identity.

The speech landed the group on numerous headlines worldwide, but not everyone was sure why the boy band was chosen to address the United Nations.


BTS speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York in September. (Yonhap)


One Facebook user called the speech a “PR stunt for stronger world recognition,” while another skeptic said in response to the UN speech that “Talk is just talk. Until they walk the walk it means nada.”

In reality, the group was there to kick off the launch of the UN’s new youth initiative Generation Unlimited, a project intended to tackle the global education crisis and make education more accessible for young people.

BTS also runs the “Love Myself” campaign in association with the United Nations Children’s Fund, which is designed to help tackle “violence toward children and teens around the world, with the hope of making the world a better place through music,” according to its official website.

The hashtag #BTSLoveMyself has been shared over 6.7 million times, while the campaign launched in November 2017 had raised over 1.15 billion won ($1.01 million) in funds as of early October.

Many Twitter users have shared about the positive impact of BTS’ “Love Myself” campaign, which supports UNICEF’s global campaign “#ENDviolence.”

“If you value yourself, you respect yourself, you love yourself because you are important and special,” one Twitter user wrote with the hashtag.

Another user who shared the hashtag wrote, “BTS has taught me to love myself as I am with my mistakes and my past, they taught me to follow my dreams. I hope someday to be a great dancer and to be a great biologist.”

Speaking with UNICEF USA, a Native American fan shared why the group’s message of self-love resonates with her.

“Growing up in the environment that I did as a Native American is very tough. A lot of us go through a lot of struggles that a lot of people face, kids especially, and I feel like a lot of times it’s hard for us to find our voice so I really appreciate his speech because it was very a big eye opener,” the fan who goes by allytoscano said of the group’s UN speech, which embraced everyone including ethnic minorities.

Self-love is also a recurring theme in the group’s music, with its single “Magic Shop” being a prime example.

“I always want to be the best/So I was impatient and always restless/Comparing myself with others became my daily life/My greed that was my weapon suffocated me and also became a leash/ But looking back on it now, truthfully, I feel like it’s not true that I wanted to be the best,” the song’s lyrics read.

In another song, “No,” the septet touched on the difficulties that young students face.

“Dreams disappeared, there was no time to rest/It’s a cycle of school, home or an internet cafe/Everyone lives the same life,” read the lyrics of the song.


Members of BTS promote the “Love Myself” campaign. (Official website of “Love Myself”)


BTS’ “Love Yourself” series -- spanning three records, “Love Yourself: Her,” Love Yourself: Tear,” and “Love Yourself: Answer” -- speaks volumes for the group’s emphasis on self-love.

The group’s approach to social issues appears to have inspired fans to follow suit and become part of a positive force in the world.

In June, two Thai fan clubs, BTS Thailand and Candyclover, announced they had donated 200 liters of blood in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the group’s debut. They told South Korean media outlets that the move was inspired by BTS and promised to donate the proceeds to the “Love Myself” campaign.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)

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The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation