Media Misses Out on Historic Humanitarian Moment with K-pop Group at U.N.

On Monday, K-pop group BTS addressed the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly at the launch of UNICEF’s newest initiative, Generation Unlimited, as part of the U.N.’s strategy Youth 2030.

Speaking for the seven members, Kim Nam-joon, also known as RM, gave a brief but heartfelt speech about his personal experiences and struggles as a young person.

“I want to hear your voice and I want to hear your conviction,” said RM. “No matter who you are, where you come from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself. Find your name and find your voice by speaking yourself.”

Though this is the first time a K-pop group has addressed the U.N., coverage of the event was not equal across the political spectrum. Several liberal news outlets reported on the speech and its historical precedence. CNN said that BTS “made history” by speaking at the event and the Washington Post uploaded the full speech to YouTube.

Conservative news outlets; however, have remained silent. Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and The Washington Times published no coverage on the event at all and have instead continued with the daily news cycle covering Trump.

The content of the coverage was surprisingly bare despite the groups’ international popularity. When BTS was mentioned, news outlets that did cover the group only highlighted their record-breaking musical success, not their humanitarian efforts outside of their musical career.

BTS is not the only pop-culture icon to address the U.N. Lilly Singh, popular YouTuber and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, also addressed the 73rd General Assembly at the launch of Youth 2030. Coverage of her address was similarly sparse and often overlapped with that of BTS. BBC News, Daily Pioneer and NowThis News were some of the only outlets to run stories dedicated to her address.

“I’m united with each and every one of you to help create a world where every young person is empowered,” Singh said. “Where every young person is educated, where every young person is skilled and prepared to fulfill their full potential.”

Many news outlets that reported on the speech also highlighted BTS’s campaign with UNICEF’s #ENDviolence program last year, Love Myself, which aimed at ending violence against children and teenagers. The group’s campaign raised over $1 million for the cause.

These speakers used their influence as important figures for young audiences to promote good causes. Their messages suffer when insufficiently covered by the media. BTS has become one of the most influential musical groups of the past year, winning the Top Social Artist Award at the Billboard Awards in 2017 and 2018. Speaking at the U.N. serves as an opportunity for other young people to engage in advocacy and diplomacy.

“Tell me your story,” said RM in his address. “I want to hear your voice. I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself. Find your name and find your voice by speaking yourself.”

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