BTS has been deluged with accomplishments, awards, and accolades, and though some of them were quite meaningful and surprising, perhaps the biggest honor they’ve managed to snag recently was the Order of Cultural Merit at the 2018 Korea Popular Culture and Art Awards ceremony.
The Order of Cultural Merit is an award given by the President and is meant to recognize those who have served South Korea by promoting its culture and art, thereby increasing awareness and respect for the country’s culture. There are five degrees of the award, each with a different ribbon that signifies to which grade the honor belongs. The BTS members received the fifth grade, known as 화관 (Flower Crown). This makes BTS the only K-Pop group to receive the prestigious honor (PSY, a soloist, received the fourth rank of Jeweled Crown in 2012).
For BTS and ARMY, the weight of this award is not lost. Yes, BTS has achieved so much in such a short time, but winning an Order of Cultural Merit is beyond what anyone could have expected. Various K-Pop groups receive commendations from the Ministry of Culture at the same awards ceremony (BTS received this in 2016), but moving up to this higher honor is so, so rare.
As the members ascended the stage and took the mic to give a thank-you speech, leader Kim Namjoon mentioned that although he normally speaks, he wanted to let the other members have a chance to talk on this day. “I want to give this honor to all ARMY,” he concluded. Taehyung commented that he didn’t really know how to express his feelings but that he believes his family is proud. “ARMY, I can’t express it well, but I’m really thankful for you, and I love you,” he said.
Yoongi recalled some of their various achievements of the past year and stated, “I think this award is a huge honor. We will let the world know about Korean culture with the hearts of national representatives.” Jin noted that he was proud and mentioned that they’ve noticed, while abroad, that “many people sing along in Korean and said proudly that they study Hangeul.”
Jimin stated, “This award is big because it was made with the members, the staff, the company, and you all. So I want to tell you that everyone has a share in this award.” Hoseok commented that, “It’s an award filled with the weight of our staff’s hard work, BTS’s blood and sweat, and the cheers of ARMYs from all over the world.” He didn’t forget to shout out his love for ARMY at the end of his speech.
Finally, Jungkook thanked the fans and expressed his uncertainty at receiving the award: “Truthfully, I think this award is still too much for us. However, I will accept it thankfully with the meaning that it’s an award telling us to put more effort in going forward.”
When the group was nominated, the Ministry of Culture listed their worldwide success, number one album on Billboard, and the fact that they’re made up of singer-songwriters as contributing factors to their nomination, and eventual win, of the Order. The award is all about promoting Korea’s culture and art, and BTS has certainly achieved this beyond what anyone else has been able to do. They’ve increased the force of the Hallyu Wave in Japan, the U.S., Europe, and around the world.
BTS being the only K-Pop group to receive the award is certainly meaningful, but even beyond this, they’re also the youngest recipients in history. It will be really difficult for anyone younger to receive the award, at least for many years, since youngest member Jungkook is only 22 years old (21 internationally).
Needless to say, the BTS members are certainly proud, but so are their families, their countrymen, and their fans. BTS reached uncharted waters way before they were awarded the Order; this is simply the next level that their tidal wave of success has claimed.