“What a relief we have each other.” Min Yoongi, otherwise known as Suga, reads his poem aloud to fellow BTS band members during an episode of RUN aired on V Live. He goes on to express how they were just seven boys with many dreams, and how thankful he was that they have achieved many milestones of success together.
BTS (방탄소년단: Bangtan Sonyeondan) are a South Korean pop group consisting of seven bandmates: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. The band has made a monumental impact with their music. Despite the well-deserved international recognition, the members of BTS have stayed to their roots and had emphasised on being 7 normal boys from South Korea. With their constant updates and/or communication with fans (via fancafes, Twitter, V Live episodes, fansigns), ARMY’s are able to know more of the members’ personalities and who they strive to be as people.
You may be wondering: who is the ARMY? “ARMY” is an acronym for “Adorable Representative M.C for Youth”, which is a term coined to refer to the BTS fandom. BTS when translated to the English, when translated to English,, language stands for “Bulletproof Boyscouts”. Any boy scout would need a bulletproof vest, and the ARMY acts as that shield for them.
The band has never been shy to speak about current social issues. Over the years, BTS has built a reputation as being one of the most socially conscious groups in Korea. Their lyrics have touched on subjects such as mental health, consumerism and the education system. I will be exploring on initiatives the members of BTS have been a part of, as well as how they have inspired their ARMY to do good work as well.
UNICEF ‘Love Myself’ Campaign
One of the most famous causes BTS has actively been a part of is their anti-violence campaign with UNICEF. Through the BTS Love Myself campaign, the band joins UNICEF Korea to #EndViolence against children and teenagers, with the hope of making the world a better place through their music. Their campaign has not only brought greater awareness of the need to protect young people suffering against violence, but it has also inspired the ARMY to get involved and donate to their cause as well. As of November 2018, the campaign has officially raised $1.4 million in total (1.6 billion KRW). The money donated to the cause came from direct donations of the ARMY, as well as a portion of sales from the band’s ‘Love Yourself’ album series. Donations towards the Love Myself campaign were also out of the members’ own earnings as well.
BTS were invited to the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly for the launch of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited. Generation Unlimited is an initiative introduced to tackle global education and training crisis by greater progression in: secondary-age education; skills for learning, employability and decent work; and; empowerment. RM (the leader of BTS) delivered a powerful speech on self-love during their visit. His speech was not only well-articulated, but has encouraged many young people since.
Donations/Charity Work: BTS Members’ Personal Donations
The Korea Pediatric Cancer Foundation shared that Suga had donated 100 million won ($88,160) and toys for children struggling with cancer and leukemia. He had made this donation to commemorate his birthday in March of this year. The donation was also extra special as Suga made the donation in ARMY’s name, which expresses his gratitude to the fans who have shown the band so much love over the years. Suga is no stranger to donating in ARMY’s name, as he had Suga had donated 10 kg of Korean Hanwoo beef (top grade beef in Korea) along with signed copies of BTS’ albums to 39 orphanages back in 2018.
As of April 2019, it was reported that Jimin had donated 100 million won ($87,914 approximately) to the Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education to be used towards education development. The Office of Education divided and distributed Jimin’s donation to each school. The donation will be used towards student welfare including lunch money for students from low-income families and other necessary items. Jimin had also made personal donations to his childhood school (Hoedong Elementary School) to pay for the costs of school uniforms for graduating students.
In December 2018, the Korean Animal Welfare Association announced that Jin had made a birthday donation for animals in need. He had made a personal donation of 322 kg worth of pet food to the shelter.
According to Koreaboo, Jin has joined UNICEF’s “Honours Club” due to his generous donations every month. Despite keeping his donations low-key, UNICEF Korea’s secretary general Lee Ki Chul had thanked him for his meaningful contributions.
There is a sincerity in the boys’ efforts to do good, as they themselves do not publicise the personal donations that they have done. As of 2017, it was revealed that each member of BTS had personally donated 10 million won ($8500 approximately) to the Sewol Ferry Disaster 4/16 Family Council. The sinking of the Sewol Ferry had killed more than 300 passengers on April 16, 2014. The donation was made privately, but their company (Big Hit Entertainment) confirmed it after the news of their donation had broke out to the media.
Donations/Charity Work: BTS’ Impact on ARMY
Through the members’ positive efforts to make the world a better place, the ARMY were inspired to do good as well. In commemoration of the band’s 6th anniversary, the Singapore ARMY had organised a Food Bank project in their honor. A total of $2050 in donations were made, which allowed the fans to reach their goal of distributing at least 136 food bundles to those in need.
ARMY has also donated a total of 30 million won ($26,373 approximately) to the Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association in BTS’ name to help the victims of the Gangwon Province wildfire. Another cause that the ARMY has make donations to is the Hapcheon Welfare Center for Atomic Bomb Victims located in South Gyeongsang Province. This was a shelter for Korean victims of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. The Center shared that a BTS fanclub “Run Army” had donated 5.44 million won ($4860) approximately to the organisation. The ARMY were inspired to donate to alleviate the living situations of the victims. The money was consolidated from a fundraising that was conducted over 10 days.
In celebrating J-Hope’s birthday, some of the ARMY had gathered forces to make numerous donations in his honour. The Korea ARMY had donated 128 sacks of rice to J-Hope’s hometown (Gwangju City’s Buk District), and their efforts were acknowledged by the district. The ARMY had also delivered 700 kg of feed to animal shelters and animal rights groups on behalf of J-Hope. The ARMY had also partnered with the Korea Food for the Hungry International to organise “Hope of the Stop Hunger” project. This project aimed to sponsor starving children in 53 countries with emergency relief and food. BTS fangroup “Bulletproof Singapore” had organised the “A spoonful of Suga and Hope” initiative in collaboration with SASCO Senior Citizens’ Home. With the purchase of a drink and pastry, the amount goes towards covering the operations of the senior activity centre which includes the improvement of their facilities.
In celebrating V’s birthday, Korean ARMY “DC Inside V Gallery” donated a total of 4425 coal briquettes to homes around the country in his name. The fan group spoke up that due to coal prices increasing drastically, they were inspired to donate it to help those in need during the winter.
It was also reported that fans have donated nearly $10,000 worth of winter wear for surviving victims of Japanese military sexual slavery. Donations were gathered from fans hailing from South Korea, Japan, Europe and Latin America.
ARMY’s Love For BTS: Fan Projects
The band has inspired fans not only through their good deeds, but in their own personal lives as well. Fans not only from the UK, but worldwide, have expressed how much BTS and their music has helped them.
ARMY’s are often eager to conduct fan projects as this was one of the ways they could show love and support for the band. BTS has always talked fondly and highly of their ARMY, hence fan projects were a way for the ARMY to express their love in return.
Fan projects have taken all forms: banners, sing-alongs, co-ordinated lighting up’s of ARMY bombs.
One of the most recent and most heartwarming fan projects had happened during Day 2 of BTS at Wembley Stadium, UK. When the boys were backstage during a break, a notice for ARMY’s came up on the screen. ARMY’s were told to participate in a secret mission, which involved serenading their song “Young Forever” to surprise the members. The boys were caught off guard when ARMY’s started singing before their last performance. The boys were all emotional as ARMY’s sang along. “You can’t do this… This was not on the setlist”, RM joked. “We want to stay young forever, right? Let’s stay young forever, together!” he shouted.
“Young Forever” was a particularly meaningful song. The lyrics touched on how they will keep singing regardless because they are doing what they love. It was released at a time when their fanbase had not grown as massive as it has today. There was not a dry eye in the audience. Not only were the audience members recalling their own experiences of how BTS has helped them through their music, but they were also touched by the sincerity of the boys in expressing their emotions.
These are some honourable mentions of fan projects that have been conducted over the years: the ‘Our flight will be forever’ project (Seoul), ‘Purple ocean’ project (Seoul), word formation fan project (Manila), ‘We believe in Bangtan’ project (Bangkok), the ‘2! 3! Fanchant’ project (Indonesia).
What did BTS mean to the fans? How are we all able to connect despite not all of us understanding the Korean language? RM worded it beautifully during their performance at Wembley, saying, “We truly speak the same language. I don’t mean English, I don’t mean Korean — eye to eye, looking at each other, dancing, vibing… that’s how we do it.”
BTS has made a positive influence not only through their own actions, but simultaneously inspiring their fans to do good as well.
During her appearance on the Zach Sang Show, their friend and music artist Halsey shared about ARMY’s showing their appreciation to her by donating to charities in her name. To sum up the impact BTS and ARMY have made together, I would like to quote this portion of her interview:
“Why isn’t everyone’s fans doing this? Can you imagine if everyone’s fans thanked them by organising charities in their name? What a better place this world would be.”