It’s not every day that a K-pop star gets chosen as a UNICEF ambassador, so when K-pop boy group BTS was chosen to front the “Love Myself” campaign last November, which was part of UNICEF’s #ENDviolence campaign, we knew big things were coming their way. And something huge did – they addressed the United Nations at the launch of UN’s Youth 2030 strategy two days ago, which is aimed at empowering young people.
The speech was delivered by the group’s leader, RM (real name Kim Namjoon), who talked about his childhood and the hardships he faced as a member of BTS. The 24-year-old, who spoke English – which he picked up from watching American sitcom Friends – served up some realness on how we try to change ourselves to fit in and how we fear making mistakes.
Read his full speech below.
“I was born in Ilsan, a city near Seoul, South Korea. It’s a really beautiful place with a lake, hills, and even an annual flower festival. I spent a very happy childhood there, and I was just an ordinary boy. I used to look up at the night sky and wonder, and I used to dream the dreams of a boy. I used to imagine that I was a superhero who could save the world. In an intro to one of our early albums, there’s a line that says, “My heart stopped when I was maybe nine or 10.” Looking back, I think that’s when I started to worry about what other people thought of me and starting seeing myself through their eyes. I stopped looking up at the night skies, the stars. I stopped daydreaming. Instead, I just tried to jam myself into the molds that other people made. Soon, I began to shut out my own voice and started to listen to the voices of others. No one called out my name, and neither did I. My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut. So, like this, I, we, all lost our names. We became like ghosts.
But I had one sensory and that was music. There was a small voice inside of me that said, “Wake up, man, and listen to yourself.” But it took me quite a long time to hear music calling my real name. Even after making the decision to join BTS, there were a lot of hurdles. Some people might not believe but, most people thought we were hopeless. And sometimes, I just wanted to quit. But I think I was very lucky that I didn’t give it all up. And I’m sure that I, and we, will keep stumbling and falling like this.
BTS has become artists performing in huge stadiums and selling millions of albums right now, but I am still an ordinary 24-year-old guy. If there’s anything that I’ve achieved, it was only possible that I have my other BTS members right by my side and because of the love and support that our ARMY fans all over the world make for us. And maybe I made a mistake yesterday. But yesterday’s me is still me.
Today, I am who I am with all of my faults and my mistakes. Tomorrow, I might be a tiny bit wiser, and that’ll be me too. These faults and mistakes are what I am, making up the brightest stars in the constellation of my life. I have come to love myself for who I am, for who I was, and for who I hope to become. I’d like to say one last thing. After releasing our Love Yourself albums and launching the “Love Myself” campaign, we started to hear remarkable stories from all our fans over the world – how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves. Those stories constantly remind us of our responsibility. So, let’s take all one step. We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to speak yourself.
I’d like to ask all of you, “What is your name? What excites you and makes your heart beat?” Tell me your story. I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself. Find your name and find your voice by speaking yourself.
I’m Kim Namjoon, and also RM of BTS. I’m an idol, and I’m an artist from a small town in Korea. Like most people, I’ve made many and plenty mistakes in my life. I have many faults, and I have many more fears, but I’m going to embrace myself as hard as I can, and I’m starting to love myself, gradually, little by little.
What is your name? Speak yourself.”