BTS has already made history as the the first Korean act to top the U.S. charts and sell out a U.S. stadium. And now, they’re on the cover of the latest issue of Time, after placing on the magazine’s annual list of “Next Generation Leaders.”
The K-Pop sensations, who Time reports have “created a $5 billion industry with fans around the world,” join other trailblazers like actress Amandla Stenberg and soccer player Kylian Mbappe on the list — which honors young people from different industries who are reshaping the world around them.
Members Jimin, 22, Jin, 25, Suga, 25, J-Hope, 24, RM, 24, V, 22, and Jung Kook, 21, posed together for the issue, and sat down with Time for a chat.
“As a Korean, we love our country and we’re proud of our country so much,” RM explained in a video of their conversation. “And it’s even just an honor to be called an ambassador of Korean K-pop.”
“It’s a real honor,” added J-Hope, via a translator, in the interview. “We’re proud that everything we do is giving off light.”
Formed in 2013, the boy band — whose name stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan” in Korean and “Beyond the Scene” in English — have set themselves apart from the crowd by addressing some of the real issues they face, like depression and the pressure to meet societal expectations.
“We started to tell the stories that people wanted to hear and were ready to hear, stories that other people could not or would not tell,” Suga told Time. “We said what other people were feeling—like pain, anxieties and worries. … That was our goal, to create this empathy that people can relate to.”
“Life has many unpredictable issues, problems, dilemmas,” continued RM. “But I think the most important thing to live well is to be yourself. We’re still trying to be us.”
RM expressed similar feelings in late September, while giving a speech at the United Nations in New York City in celebration of their “Love Myself” anti-violence campaign (a crusade they launched last year in partnership with UNICEF).
“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 color, your gender identity — just speak yourself,” RM told the crowd, speaking on behalf of the band.
BTS are currently amid a sold-out, world tour. The band has released three albums, including Love Yourself: Tear — which became the first k-pop album to top the Billboard 200 albums chart. A repackaging of that album, titled Love Yourself: Answer, also landed at No. 1 on that same chart.