K-pop superstars and global humanitarians BTS celebrated a big win this week for their partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

BTS, their record label BIGHIT MUSIC, and UNICEF announced on Tuesday in a press release that their LOVE MYSELF campaign has raised $3.6 million to promote self-love and end violence and abuse against children.

In addition to monetary support, the group has raised awareness through social media, garnering 5 million tweets and 50 million engagements for posts for the LOVE MYSELF campaign since it launched four years ago. 

“When it comes to promoting self-esteem and improving mental well-being, one of the most important things you can do is just to start the conversation,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in the press release. “The groundbreaking way in which BTS has helped spark a positive message with its ARMY is simply unmatched and incredibly invaluable.” 

Since joining forces in 2017, UNICEF and BTS have used the LOVE MYSELF campaign and the group’s 39 million Twitter followers to spread a message of love and compassion, as well as highlight preventive measures to keep children safe. 

Taking the global stage in 2018, the seven-member boy band stood at the podium at the UN to deliver a speech on identity and self-love. 

“After releasing our Love Yourself albums and launching the LOVE MYSELF campaign, we started to hear remarkable stories from our fans all over the world, how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves,” said BTS leader RM, surrounded by fellow members Jimin, V, J-Hope, Jin, Suga, and Jungkook. “Those stories constantly remind us of our responsibility.”

From 2018 to 2019, BTS used their “Love Yourself” world tour to generate awareness and dedicated booths at their concerts to provide information on how to stop bullying. 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the group returned to the UN to deliver a digital message on the importance of unity and strength through trying times.

“Thinking about the future and trying hard are all important — but cherishing yourself, encouraging yourself, and keeping yourself happy is the most important,” said Jin. “In a world of uncertainty, we must cherish the importance of ‘me,’ ‘you,’ and ‘us.’ That’s the message of LOVE MYSELF we talked about for three years.” 

Continuing their support for the campaign in 2021, BTS and their record label pledged proceeds from LOVE MYSELF merchandise, a portion of Love Yourself record sales, and an additional $1 million to UNICEF. 

South Korea has the highest suicide rate per capita of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states. According to a Statista survey, one-third of participants reported mental health issues, including depression and social anxiety. The country’s abnormally high suicide rate is often attributed to high-pressure work and education situations and rampant bullying in South Korean schools. In 2016, suicide was attributed as the leading cause of death for South Koreans aged 15 to 24.  

The country reached a point of reckoning in 2021 when a number of celebrities, athletes, and K-pop stars were accused of bullying and abuse

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found in 2019 that in 144 countries around the world, 32% of students have been bullied or experienced physical violence at school at least once a month. UNESCO and UNICEF have been working to end violence in schools through policies and commitments that create safer learning environments. 

Through their work with UNICEF and the LOVE MYSELF project, BTS hope to spread participation in their #ENDviolence campaign and share positivity and love through music. 

“We hope that the LOVE MYSELF message can continue to serve [and] invigorate everyone’s lives,” said BTS in a statement. “We will be honored if all seven of us can continue this campaign to return the amazing love that we have received, and give people the strength to come closer to LOVE MYSELF. We hope to keep doing what we are doing and voice what we are voicing, so we can help people find happiness and love.”

The past month has been big for BTS — from topping the Billboard charts at No. 1 with their latest single “My Universe” featuring Coldplay and delivering a speech at the UN as special presidential envoys, to joining Global Citizen Live in the campaign to defend the planet and defeat poverty. 

The K-pop band performed “Permission to Dance” from Seoul in September as part of Global Citizen Live’s opening ceremony, and supported the campaign toward mobilizing $1.1 billion, 157 million trees, and over 60 million COVID-19 vaccines thanks to partnerships between government, philanthropy, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. 

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find international resources here.

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BTS and UNICEF Raise $3.6 Million to End Violence Against Children

By Kate Nakamura