At the end of September, BTS, the famous K-pop group, visited the United Nations as newly appointed South Korean special presidential envoys. At first glance, this seemed like just another celebrity spotlight, capitalizing on influencer culture—a phenomenon that can be grossly distorted into platforms for profit, misinformation dissemination, or civil disruption. BTS backed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),1 which include issues of health and well-being, gender equality, climate action, peace and justice, hunger, and a dozen more SDGs.
I’m no K-pop fan and certainly don’t condone the many hardships of the industry for idols and idol hopefuls. However, the message and brand of BTS is arguably one distinguishing feature that makes them so popular, relatable, and, I believe, on-point when addressing contemporary issues relating to social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. The BTS brand advocates for love for others and for oneself, and as envoys, they bear a message of hope for a better future.
In our post-truth present, that message is a welcome breeze of fresh optimism and inspiration in a stagnant bog of denialism and hate. Empathy and compassion fatigue among healthcare workers are verging on epidemic as fights against multiple fronts beat down physical, mental, and even spiritual defenses. Toxic positivity is not the answer, but some hope and recognition that we are not alone in our battles, and that the current generation is not “COVID’s lost generation” but the “welcome generation,”2 can help pave a way towards forging our shared future together.
The UN called the world to action to “transform our world” through the 17 SDGs.1 We contribute our part through our work within and outside of SGIM. Let’s hope efforts towards the SDGs, amplified by BTS’s messages of love, compassion, and hope, are as infectious as their hard-hitting beats and dance moves.