BTS (Hangul: 방탄소년단; RR: Bangtan Sonyeondan), also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member South Korean boy band formed by Big Hit Entertainment in 2013. The name became a backronym for Beyond the Scene in July 2017. The band won several New Artist of the Year awards for the track “No More Dream” and gained prominence with their subsequent albums Dark & Wild (2014), The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2 (2015) and The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (2016). The latter two entered the U.S. Billboard 200, and The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever won the Album of the Year award at the 2016 Melon Music Awards.
Their second full Korean album, Wings (2016), sold more than 1.5 million copies, making it BTS’s first “million seller”. BTS made their debut on the Billboard Hot 100 with the track “DNA” from the EP Love Yourself: Her, which peaked at #67. Another track from the EP, the remix version of “Mic Drop”, peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Both tracks are certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, a first for any Korean group and the second Korean act overall after PSY. Their third album, Love Yourself: Tear, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 making them as of 2019 the first and only Korean act to achieve this. Love Yourself: Answer sold over 1.9 million copies on Gaon Album Chart in August 2018, breaking the chart’s all-time monthly record previously set by Love Yourself: Tear. On November 9, 2018, Love Yourself: Answer became the first Korean album certified Gold and the single “MIC Drop” became the first track by a Korean group certified Platinum in the United States. In Korea they have sold over ten million albums, with five million sold in 2018.
Known for their large social media presence, BTS were the most retweeted celebrities in the world for 2017 and 2018. In October 2016, Billboard placed BTS #1 on their Social 50 chart, another first for a Korean group. In May 2017, they won the Top Social Artist Award at the Billboard Music Awards, becoming the first Korean group to win a BBMA. On November 20, 2017, Guinness World Records revealed that BTS had earned a spot in their 2018 edition for “having the world’s most Twitter engagements for a music group”. In 2018, BTS became #1 on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list, which ranks South Korea’s most powerful and influential celebrities, as well as #1 in a Gallup poll for Korea’s most loved artists of 2018. They also became the youngest ever recipients of the Order of Cultural Merit from the South Korean government. In September 2018, BTS gave a speech at the United Nations as ambassadors for UNICEF and were featured on the cover of Time magazine’s international edition as ‘Next Generation Leaders’.
The septet co-writes and produces much of their output, to which some media outlets have attributed their success. Their music often features references to literature and to an alternative universe storyline. Some of the recurring themes that appear in their albums include mental health, the troubles of school-age youth, and loss.
The group’s name, BTS, stands for the Korean expression Bangtan Sonyeondan (Hangul: 방탄소년단; Hanja: 防彈少年團), literally meaning “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”. According to member J-Hope, the name signifies the group’s desire “to block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim on adolescents like bullets”. In Japan, they are known as Bōdan Shōnendan (防弾少年団), which translates similarly. In July 2017, BTS announced that their name would also stand for “Beyond the Scene” as part of their new brand identity. This extended their name to mean “growing youth BTS who is going beyond the realities they are facing, and going forward.”
BTS first began its formation in 2010 after Big Hit Entertainment CEO Bang Si-hyuk met with group leader RM and was impressed with his rapping. BTS was originally supposed to be a hip hop group similar to YG Entertainment’s 1TYM, but between their initial formation and their debut Bang Si-hyuk decided that the contemporary youth needed instead “a hero who can lend them a shoulder to lean on, even without speaking a single word”. The group was meant to debut in 2011 and featured on several tracks by artists such as 2AM and Lee Seung-gi before their debut was postponed and the group was reorganized into a more traditional idol group. The lineup was then finalized with Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook in 2012. Six months prior to their debut, they began to gain attention for their presence on various social media websites, as well as song covers on YouTube and SoundCloud.
The group’s debut single album 2 Cool 4 Skool, the first installment in their “school trilogy” series, was released simultaneously with its lead single “No More Dream” on June 12, 2013. While the album peaked at number five on the Gaon Album Chart and eventually sold over 145,000 copies, “No More Dream” and the subsequent single “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2” were not major hits, with the album selling only 24,000 copies in 2013. Expanding their endeavors into Japan, “No More Dream” was later re-recorded in Japanese and released on June 4, 2014.
The second part to the “school trilogy” was the extended play O!RUL8,2?, released on September 11, 2013, along with “N.O” as its single. The EP has sold over 160,000 copies to date, including 34,000 copies in its release year, and peaked at number four. That same month, BTS starred in their own variety show, SBS MTV’s Rookie King Channel Bangtan, based on a fake broadcast station, “Channel Bangtan”, through which members parodied variety shows such as VJ Special Forces and MasterChef Korea. At the end of the year, BTS was recognized with several New Artist of the Year awards, including the 2013 Melon Music Awards and Golden Disc Awards and the 2014 Seoul Music Awards.
The last act to their “school trilogy”, Skool Luv Affair (2014) topped the Gaon Chart, selling 100,000 copies in 2014 and over 250,000 copies overall. It also peaked at number three on Billboard’s World Albums Chart, marking the BTS’ first release on the chart. The album was supported by the singles “Boy in Luv” (Korean: 상남자; RR: Sang-namja) and “Just One Day” (Korean: 하루만; RR: Haruman). In August, the group also attended KCON in Los Angeles. That same month, they released their first Korean studio album, Dark & Wild, which peaked at number two on the Gaon Chart and sold over 200,000 copies. It was supported by two singles: “Danger” and “War of Hormone” (Korean: 호르몬 전쟁, RR: Horeumon Jeonjaeng).
Their Japanese studio album, Wake Up (2014), released that December, peaking at number three on the weekly Oricon Albums Chart and selling 28,000 copies. Along with re-recorded Japanese versions of older songs, it also contained the original tracks “Wake Up” and “The Stars”. Their first concert tour, 2014 BTS Live Trilogy – Episode II: The Red Bullet, was held from October to December.
At the beginning of 2015, BTS toured Japan for the first time with their Wake Up: Open Your Eyes tour. They also held their second solo concert in Korea, BTS Live Trilogy – Episode 1: BTS Begins. Their third EP, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1 (2015), was released that March and was the only Korean album to be included in Fuse’s list of the “27 Best Albums of 2015 So Far” that year. The lead single “I Need U” was a top five hit on the weekly Gaon Digital Chart in South Korea and garnered BTS their first ever music show win on SBS MTV’s The Show. Although the second single, “Dope (Korean: 쩔어; RR: Jjeoreo)”, peaked at number 44 on the weekly Gaon Digital Chart, its music video became BTS’ first to accrue over 100 million views on YouTube in October. “Dope” later peaked at number three on Billboard’s World Digital Songs Chart. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1 has sold over 415,000 copies to date. In May, Twitter launched its first ever K-pop emoji, featuring BTS.
BTS’ fourth Japanese single, “For You”, was released that June to celebrate the first anniversary of their Japanese debut. The single topped Oricon’s daily chart, selling over 42,000 copies within its first day. They also commenced their 2015 Live Trilogy Episode: The Red Bullet world tour, and participated in the Summer Sonic Festival tour in Japan.
During their three-day The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: On Stage tour, the group performed the new song “Run”, the lead single for the EP The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2, which was later released on November 30, 2015. The album topped the weekly Gaon Album and Billboard World Albums charts and remained atop the latter for multiple weeks, making BTS the first K-pop act to achieve that feat. It also peaked at number 171 on the Billboard 200 chart with over 5,000 copies. At the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards, they received the Best World Performer in recognition of their international fanbase.
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1 and Part 2 were later combined into the Young Forever (2016) edition and was supported by three singles: the top 40 hit “Epilogue: Young Forever”, the top 10 hit “Fire” (Korean: 불타오르네; RR: Bultaoreune), and the top 20 hit “Save Me”. A two-day concert at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul was held in May to support the album, followed by their Asia tour. The group also headlined both US KCON shows held that year in New Jersey (June) and Los Angeles (July), to sold out audiences. Young Forever later won Album of the Year at the year-end Melon Music Awards, becoming the group’s first major grand prize (daesang). It also entered the U.S. Billboard 200, their first album to do so.
On September 7, 2016, BTS released their second Japanese studio album Youth, selling over 44,000 copies on its first day of release and ranking number one in Japan. Japanese editions of “I Need U” and “Run” were released as singles. Meanwhile, back in their home country, pre-orders for the group’s second Korean studio album, Wings, released that October, accumulated over 500,000 copies within the first week. The lead single “Blood Sweat & Tears” achieved an “all-kill” in South Korea, becoming their first number one hit on the weekly Gaon Digital Chart. Its music video gained over 6 million views within 24 hours, breaking the previous record held on YouTube for the highest number of views of a K-pop group music video within 24 hours. In South Korea, Wings became the best-selling album in the Gaon Album Chart history at the time. It peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200, which marked the highest chart ranking for a K-pop album ever. It sold more than 1.5 million copies that year making it BTS’s first “million seller”.
In October 2016, Billboard placed BTS #1 on their Social 50 chart, making them the first Korean group to top the chart. They later won Artist of the Year at the 2016 Mnet Asian Music Awards, becoming the first artist not from a “Big Three” entertainment company (SM, YG and JYP) to do so. Also in 2016 they charted on YouTube’s Music Global Top 100: 17th on the video chart, 6th on the artist chart and 14th on the tracks chart.
In early 2017, BTS embarked on their Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour. That February, pre-orders for the repackaged edition of Wings, entitled You Never Walk Alone, reached over 700,000 copies and broke the record for most albums sold in a month. The lead single “Spring Day” (Korean: 봄날; RR: Bomnal) topped eight of the major South Korean online music charts, as well as Gaon, and crashed Melon’s digital chart due to the high influx of user traffic. It also entered the US Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 singles chart at number 15 with “zero promotions”.
Their fifth EP, Love Yourself: Her, was released that September and featured music from the Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart for the track “Best of Me”. The music video for its lead single “DNA” reached over 20 million views on YouTube, breaking the record for most viewed K-pop group music video within the first 24 hours. “DNA” also became the group’s first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 85, making BTS the first K-pop boy band to do so and the second Korean act with a Korean-language song. When “DNA” rose to number 67, it became the highest-charting song on the Billboard Hot 100 for a K-pop group, beating Wonder Girls’ previous record at number 76. The group’s next release, Love Yourself: Her (2017), debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, the highest rank for an Asian artist in history. The album sold over 1.2 million copies on South Korea’s Gaon Album Chart in its first month, achieving the highest monthly album sales in the chart’s history and the highest on any Korean chart in 16 years, second to g.o.d’s Chapter 4 album in 2001. Their second single, a remix by Steve Aoki of their song “Mic Drop”, featuring Desiigner, peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first top 40 entry for a K-pop group on the chart. “DNA” and “Mic Drop” were later released as a triple-A side single in Japan with the new song “Crystal Snow”, which topped the Oricon Chart, becoming the highest-selling single from a K-pop artist within a week. BTS was the first foreign artist to achieve the #1 rank.
In November, the group became the first K-pop group to perform at the American Music Awards, raising their profile internationally. They won their second Artist of the Year at the 2017 Mnet Asian Music Awards, becoming the first act to win the award two years in a row. “Spring Day” later won Best Song of the Year at the Melon Music Awards. That December, they performed on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve to welcome the new year, making them the first K-pop group to be part of the show’s lineup. They also made their Japanese TV music show debut on TV Asahi’s Japan Music Station Super Live on December 22. On November 20, 2017, Guinness World Records revealed that BTS had earned a spot in their 2018 edition for “having the world’s most Twitter engagements for a music group”.
January 2018 saw BTS receive their first Double Platinum certification from the RIAJ for their “Mic Drop/DNA/Crystal Snow” single, the only single album by a foreign artist in 2017 to sell over 500,000 copies and receive certification on the Oricon chart. Later that month, they became the first artist outside of the “Big Three” to win both grand prize (Daesang) awards at the Golden Disc Awards and the Seoul Music Awards respectively. In February, their “Mic Drop Remix” and “DNA” singles were both certified Gold, by the RIAA, making BTS the first and only Korean artist to receive two certifications. An original, eight-episode documentary series entitled Burn the Stage, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the group’s 2017 Wings Tour, premiered March 28 on YouTube Premium and ran exclusively on the platform until May 9. Their third Japanese studio album, Face Yourself, was released on April 4, debuting at number 43 on the Billboard 200 as the third-highest-charting Japanese album in the history of the chart. Later that same day, the group released a nine-minute video titled “Euphoria”, said to be the theme to Love Yourself 起: Wonder.
On May 20, BTS won Top Social Artist at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards, making them the only Korean artist to be nominated for and win the award two years in a row. They also debuted as performers at the show, premiering their new single, “Fake Love”, from their third Korean-language LP, Love Yourself: Tear, released on May 18. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 135,000 album-equivalent units (including 100,000 pure album sales), becoming BTS’ highest-charting and first number one album in the US, the first K-pop album to top the US albums chart, and the highest-charting album by an Asian act. “Fake Love” peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 that same week, becoming the band’s highest reaching song on the chart as well as their first in the top ten. Overall, “Fake Love” is the seventeenth non-English song to reach the top ten and the first for a K-Pop group. The single also debuted at number seven on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart with 27.4 million streams earned in the week ending May 24, giving BTS their first top ten on the chart and making “Fake Love” the first K-pop song to land on top ten since Psy’s “Hangover” feat. Snoop Dogg in 2014. On August 14, “Fake Love” was confirmed by the Recording Industry Association of America to have reached “Gold” status, having sold over 500,000 copies in SPS units. This marked BTS’ third song to reach ‘Gold’ certification. Love Yourself: Tear also reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart, marking the group’s first top ten album in the country.
On July 17, the group announced the release of their second compilation album Love Yourself: Answer for August 24, 2018, with seven new tracks added to the release. It sold over 1.9 million copies on Gaon Album Chart in August 2018, breaking the chart’s all-time monthly record once again. Their 2018 world tour, titled BTS World Tour: Love Yourself, began the following day in Seoul. For the final stop of the North American leg, the band performed at Citi Field, marking the first time a Korean act has performed at a U.S. stadium. All 40,000 tickets for the stadium date were later confirmed by Big Hit Entertainment to have sold out in under 20 minutes. On August 24, the album was released, along with the music video for “Idol”. An alternative version of the track, featuring Nicki Minaj, was released digitally on the same date, with a music video premiering on September 6. The music video received over 45 million views in its first 24 hours on YouTube, breaking the record of 43.2 million views in 24 hours previously set by Taylor Swift with “Look What You Made Me Do”. In the beginning of December 2018, the record was surpassed once again by Ariana Grande, after her video “Thank U, Next” garnered 55.4 million views in its first 24 hours. Debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, the album became BTS’ second number-one album—their second of 2018—and their highest sales week in the country to date. It earned 185,000 album-equivalent units, of which 141,000 were pure album sales, making BTS the only K-pop act with two Billboard 200 toppers and the first pop act with two number one albums in less than a year since One Direction topped the chart with Midnight Memories in 2013 and Four in 2014. In Canada, Love Yourself: Answer became the band’s first number-one album on the Canadian Albums Chart, earning over 10,000 consumption units. The single “Idol” reached number five on the Canadian Singles Chart, marking BTS’ first top-ten hit in Canada. On October 25, they were featured on “Waste It On Me”, a song by DJ Steve Aoki. The song was their first all-English language song and performed primarily by two BTS members, Jungkook and RM.
In early November 2018, a popular Japanese music show cancelled BTS’ performance citing a T-shirt a member wore the year before. In the same month the Jewish human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) stated BTS owed victims an apology for the shirt in 2017, clothing with Nazi symbolism, and a flag. Big Hit Entertainment issued an apology, saying that the images on the clothing were not intended to be hurtful to the victims of Nazism or atomic bombings, and that the band and management would take steps to prevent future mistakes. They also stated the flags were meant to be a commentary on the Korean school system. The apology was accepted by SWC and the Korean Atomic Bomb Victim Association.
Crossing over to film, Burn the Stage: The Movie was released in theaters worldwide on November 15, 2018. In the United States it accumulated $1.2 million on opening day for a total of $3.54 million over the three day weekend, breaking the record for the highest grossing event cinema musical production which was previously set in 2014 by the band One Direction. It ranked at number ten in the box office despite selling at only 620 locations compared to the 2,000-4,000 locations for the other top ten sellers.
On November 9, 2018 Love Yourself: Answer became the first Korean album to be certified Gold (500,000+ units), and BTS became the first Korean group to get a Platinum (1,000,000+ units) certification with the single “Mic Drop” in the United States.
According to StubHub BTS was one of 2018’s best selling concerts in international markets outside the US, second to only Ed Sheeran. Vivid Seats named BTS the 2018 artist of the year, citing the group’s history-making concert at Citi Field.
In December 2018, Billboard reported that BTS ranked #8 in their year-end Top Artist Chart, alongside the likes of Drake and Taylor Swift. They were also the No. 2 act of the year in the Duo/Group ranking, only behind Imagine Dragons. In the same month they made the Bloomberg 50, which cited their “willingness to address social issues, mental health, and politics, despite being in a genre often painted as bubble gum pop”. They sold over ten million albums in Korea, with five million being sold in 2018 alone.
In January 2019, it was announced that BTS had begun production on an upcoming album, with a planned release date between late April and early May. On February 4, 2019, BTS were confirmed to attend the 61st Grammy Awards, held on the tenth of the same month. They were also announced to be presenting an award making them the first Korean to do so. It was their first time attending the event following an appearance by the group at the LA Grammy Museum in 2018.
The septet co-writes and produces much of their output, to which some media outlets have attributed their success. The group’s early musical style and image was influenced by hiphop, as in “N.O.” and “No More Dream”. They later branched out into R&B and rock music with “Danger” and “Boy in Luv”. The members’ solo songs in Wings incorporated a diverse range of genres, with neo soul for V’s “Stigma”, gospel for J-Hope’s “Mama” and piano-rap for Suga’s “First Love”.
BTS has been praised for “speak honestly about topics they deem important, even in a conservative society” by Jeff Benjamin in Fuse magazine. Tamar Herman of Billboard magazine noted that the band’s songs have recurring themes. Their “school trilogy”—2 Cool 4 Skool (2013), O!RUL8,2? (2013), and Skool Luv Affair (2014)—explored “the troubles and anxieties of school-age youth.” “Not Today” from You Never Walk Alone is an anti-establishment anthem, with messages advocating for minority groups, while Wings (2016) touches on mental health and female empowerment. Love Yourself 承: Her, the first of four EPs of the “Love Yourself” series, deals with “love, friendship, loss, death”, while the second entry, Love Yourself 起: Wonder, was a nine minute concept video that served as a music video for “Euphoria”, a solo song by Jungkook. BTS’s third studio album, titled Love Yourself轉:Tear, was the third entry in the series, and was praised for “dealing with the cycle of grief that lingers through a separation.” BTS’s third compilation album, titled Love Yourself 結: Answer, was the fourth and final entry in the series, and was praised for its conclusion of the overarching theme of the Love Yourself era, being called “a magnum opus from BTS that that few other artists, boy bands or otherwise, ever can hope to achieve.”
BTS’ musical inspirations include Nas, Eminem, Kanye West, Drake, Post Malone, and Charlie Puth. J-Hope’s solo mixtape, Hope World, and its lead single Daydream were inspired by Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Their song “Magic Shop” of Love Yourself: Tear was inspired by James R. Doty’s memoir Into the Magic Shop.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in, in a letter to BTS, recognized their sincerity and inclusion of diversity as key to their success, writing, “Each of the seven members sings in a way that is true to himself and the life he wants to live. Their melody and lyrics transcend regional borders, language, culture, and institutions.” Grace Jeong, editor-in-chief of Soompi, has said, “BTS has something to say, and has a great marketing strategy that doesn’t alienate non-Korean-speaking fans.” The Wire mentioned in their article that “BTS are big because they are “different” because they put creative input to the band’s sound”.
In 2015 BTS participated as judges for a K-pop cover dance competition in the Bridge to Korea festival in Russia, an event that aimed to promote tourism between the two countries, where they also performed on stage. In June 2017, Time Magazine named the band one of the 25 most influential people on the internet, and Forbes Korea Power Celebrity named them the fifth most influential celebrities of Korea. The group was the most tweeted about celebrities in the world for both 2017 and 2018.
In October 2018, Time Magazine featured BTS on the cover of their global edition, naming them “Next Generation Leaders”. In the same month they performed at the Korea-France Friendship Concert in Paris, a summit meant to show the friendly relations between France and South Korea. Around 400 officials attended the meeting, including South Korean president Moon Jae-in. BTS became #1 on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list in 2018, which ranks South Korea’s most powerful and influential celebrities, as well as became the youngest ever recipients to be awarded the Order of Cultural Merit from the South Korean government.
It was reported that BTS brought US$3.63 billion to the Korean economy each year, and that one in every thirteen foreigners who visit Korea do so because of them. In 2018, the Hyundai Economic Research Institute listed BTS as one out of seven positive factors for the economy that year. According to the National Gugak Center, the organization had to expand the amount of Korean instrument sounds available as demand increased from Korean and foreign producers alike after “Idol”. The Korea Foundation, a government affiliated organization, attributed the surge of interest in the Hallyu Movement between 2016 and 2018 largely to BTS. Their chart success and popularity in numerous countries has prompted many Western media outlets to nickname them as ‘the biggest boyband in the world’. According to the Korea Customs Service, online purchases of K-Pop items surged in popularity in 2018 due to BTS. In 2018 they ranked on the Global Artist Chart, second to only Drake. It was the first time any Korean musician made the list.
Various artists have cited BTS as an influence, such as (G)I-dle, D-Crunch’s Hyunho, The Boyz’ Younghoon, SF9’s Zuho, Euna Kim, Golden Child’s Jaehyun, Wanna One, IN2IT, Park Ji-hoon, Kim Dong-han, Seven O’Clock, Hyeongseop X Euiwoong, Noir, Victon’s Sejun, and Loona.
The “BTS Effect” was termed by various news outlets. They used it whenever companies profited from BTS’ influence, such as when the banking firm KB installment savings accounts increased six times compared to the prior year after signing a contract with BTS and how after BTS topped the Billboard 200 stock prices of entertainment companies in South Korea shot up for five days afterwards. It was also observed when it was reported all companies tied to BTS, such as Netmarble, NetMark, Soribada, Key Shares, GMP, and Diffie, had their stocks raise various amounts.
In the beginning of 2019 it was reported they have a combined net worth of over US$60 million. When their partnership with Mattel was announced in 2019, the company’s stocks raised more than 8% within a day.
BTS have received many awards and honors, including 15 Melon Music Awards, 15 Mnet Asian Music Awards, 14 Golden Disc Awards 12 Seoul Music Awards, 10 Gaon Chart Music Awards, 2 Billboard Music Awards (first Korean group), 4 Korean Music Awards, and one American Music Award (first Korean group). In Korea, BTS have one Multi-Million album and one Million album. As the first Korean group to receive RIAA certification, BTS have 1 Platinum single, 3 Gold singles, and 1 Gold album in the United States. In Japan, BTS have 2 Multi-Platinum singles, one Multi-Platinum album, and 3 Gold albums.
BTS also have a large social influence and currently hold 5 Guinness World Records, including the world record for Most Twitter engagements. To date they have spent 114 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Social 50 chart. In October 2018, BTS was awarded a fifth-class Hwagwan Order of Cultural Merit from the President of South Korea for their contributions in spreading Korean culture and language.
BTS has worked with Puma Korea as brand ambassadors since 2015. In 2016, Nexon released character avatars based on the members for their RPG game Elsword. That year, they topped the ‘Boy Group Brand Power Ranking’ published by the Korean Corporate Reputation Research Institute for 9 out of 12 months.
In 2017, BTS worked as honorary tourism ambassadors for Seoul as part of the ‘I Seoul U’ program. The group filmed an advertisement produced by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which was subsequently aired in over 100 countries, and released the promotional song “With Seoul.” BTS also worked as brand models for Lotte Duty Free Shop and collaborated with popular Korean communication app Line to create new Line ‘characters’, called BT21, that serve as emojis, stickers, clothing, and more.
Expanding their endorsements overseas, BTS worked with Japanese department store 109 to promote their eighth Japanese single, “Mic Drop/DNA/Crystal Snow”, through a Christmas campaign that used “Crystal Snow” as the image song for the collaboration. Pop-up shops selling various original and limited edition BTS merchandise were opened at four different locations: the flagship Shibuya 109 store, and then at the Osaka, Kagoshima, and Fukuoka branches. BTS also promoted Yahoo! Japan’s Yahoo WiFi in 2018.
In 2018, BTS became global brand ambassadors for Puma, promoting the remix of their ‘Turin’ line and Puma’s Sportstyle line worldwide. BTS also worked as the new brand spokespersons for KB Kookmin Bank, one of the top four largest banks in South Korea. Their collaboration was highly successful, generating the opening of over 180,000 accounts, and BTS extended their contract with KB Kookmin Bank through 2019. BTS also served as global brand ambassadors for LG Electronics, promoting their new flagship model, the LG G7 ThinQ. Coca-Cola Korea had signed BTS on as their new campaign models for promotions during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. BTS also worked as global brand ambassadors for Hyundai Motor as part of the company’s promotions for their 2019 flagship SUV the “Palisade”. The car’s unveiling at the 2018 LA Auto Show featured a clip of the members promoting the car. In the same year the mobile game SuperStar BTS was released through Dalcomsoft, Inc.
In January 2019 it was announced that BTS would collaborate with the manufacturer Mattel to create dolls modeled off their outfits from the music video “Idol”. That same month, they partnered with LICO and Line Webtoon to release a 16-part comics series entitled Save Me in the United States and parts of Asia, as part of the ongoing BTS Universe. This is the third webtoon released with BTS following the releases of Hip Hop Monster and We On published through the Nate Webtoon portal in 2014. A simulation game, named BTS World, was announced to be released by Netmarble Games in 2019.
In February 2019 it was announced Medicom Toy teamed with BTS to create “BE@RBRICK”, a block-like toy with the BTS logo and gold-hued accents that was modeled after BTS’ stage clothes. In the same month Funko announced they would be releasing BTS versions in the coming year. BTS also signed a contact with the brand Mediheal to endorse mask sheets that are set to be released in March.
In 2015, BTS donated seven tons (7,187 kg) of rice to charity at the K-Star Road opening ceremony held in Apgujeong-dong. The following year they participated in ALLETS’s “Let’s Share the Heart” collaboration charity campaign with Naver to raise donations for LISA, a Korean medical charity which promotes organ and blood donation.
In January 2017, news media reported that BTS and Big Hit Entertainment had donated KR₩100,000,000 (US$85,000) to the 4/16 Sewol Families for Truth and A Safer Society, an organization connected to the families of the 2014 Sinking of MV Sewol. Each member donated KR₩10,000,000 and Big Hit Entertainment donated an additional KR₩30,000,000. The donation was intended to have been made in secret. Later that year, BTS officially launched their Love Myself campaign, an initiative dedicated to helping “protect and support child and teen victims of domestic and school violence as well as sexual assault around the world…”, in partnership with the Korean Committee for UNICEF. BTS donated KR₩500,000,000 (US$448,000) from the members and 100% of all sales of official goods for the Love Myself campaign over the next two years, in addition to donations collected from donation desks installed by UNICEF, towards several social programs to prevent violence against children and teens and to provide support for victims of violence. In addition, 3% of the sales from each album in the Love Yourself series (Love Yourself: Her, Love Yourself: Tear, and Love Yourself: Answer) will be donated to the cause. Within two months of its launch the campaign raised an additional KR₩106,000,000, taking the worldwide funds total to KR₩606,000,000. In November 2018, UNICEF Korea announced that the Love Myself campaign had raised over KR₩1,600,000,000 (US$1,400,000).
In April 2018, BTS participated in Stevie Wonder’s “Dream Still Lives” tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. alongside other celebrities, sharing their dreams and hopes for the world. On June 27 of the same year the group donated to the ALS hospital building fund.
On September 24, 2018, BTS attended the United Nations 73rd General Assembly for the launch of the youth initiative called “Youth 2030: The UN Youth Strategy” and its corresponding UNICEF campaign titled “Generation Unlimited”. On behalf of the group, BTS’ leader RM delivered a six-minute speech in English about self-acceptance, as well as their Love Myself campaign. According to UNICEF, the goal of the initiative is “to provide quality education and training for young people”. BTS were selected to attend due to their impact on youth culture through their music and social messages, previous philanthropic endeavors, and popularity among the 15-to-25-year-old age demographic.
The BTS Universe, also known as the Bangtan Universe or BU, is an alternate universe created by Big Hit Entertainment that winds through the group’s music videos, social media, teasers, and short films. The webtoon entitled “Save Me” closely follows the story line, along with their book The Notes 1.
The chronology of the universe began with the song “I Need U” and spans to the present time. It tells the story of the seven members in an alternate reality and depicts their anxieties and uncertainties as they confront their futures.
Mariejo Ramos from The Inquirer said about the universe “no other artists have successfully mixed the same literary technique to pop music in such a scale.” They used the alternate universe and literary books, such as The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, as a framing device for their albums to help showcase their artistry. Mixing the two has created an interactive environment for their fans who make theories when new material or hints are released.