Strident screams instead of civilized speeches, a conference room transformed into a dance floor: the K-pop group Seventeen, who performed Tuesday evening at the Parisian headquarters of UNESCO, relaxed the venerable UN institution, in the name of environmental protection and education.
It was difficult to recognize during the concert the large auditorium of the UN Organization for Science, Culture and Education, where the verbal jousts generally shine by their measure. Where well-dressed diplomats usually sit, hundreds of fans, the vast majority of whom are female, have, for the duration of a few songs, produced cries of a rarely reached high pitch. Then they jumped to the beat, ecstatic, when the Korean boy band came off stage to join them in the aisles.
“There was a crazy atmosphere, it was really cool,” smiles a UNESCO communicator. "Everybody was happy. Our photographers couldn't even take photos because things were moving so much." The Unesco YouTube page saw a peak in traffic of 145,000 views during the concert, he rejoices. Or perhaps a hundred times the best audiences of the UN organization. And 57,000 messages were posted live.
The 500 places available have been snapped up. “People managed to find a link to register that wasn’t even public yet. In one hour, we already had a thousand registered,” reports this communicator. Many waited for hours on Tuesday, in the rain, to ensure entry into Unesco. An exceptional fervor for this organization, to which Seventeen is however accustomed.
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The group, founded in 2015 around thirteen young artists, has in fact sold 15 million albums this year, according to one of its members. In the wake of K-pop being increasingly listened to around the world, its male boy band BTS and its female counterpart Blackpink are leaders.
Seventeen's songs are not political, much less polemical. Their communication, steeped in good intentions, is fine-tuned. Whatever the issue, from eco-anxiety to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the group says it wants to "transmit a positive message."
As a preamble to the concert, Seungkwan narrates, a bit lyrically, the “wonderful but nevertheless small island of Jeju”, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, where he grew up dreaming of “going on stage and performing in front of a sea of fans. “I would like to take a moment to share with all the young people of the world the importance of nature, the value of seeking a better future,” he then says.
Since 2022, Seventeen has also launched a campaign to promote education, bringing together donations “used to build a school in Malawi,” says Joshua, another member of a boy band eager to “work as an ambassador with Unesco, to raise awareness of the crucial challenges of our time.
“They do this with pleasure,” rejoices the UNESCO communicator, who says he has not found this sincerity in other stars who have previously collaborated with the organization. “We did not invite just any group, but a group that has a message of solidarity,” assured Gabriela Ramos, an assistant director general at UNESCO, also delighted that the notoriety of Seventeen reflects on the UN organization, where a youth forum is currently taking place.
Met after the concert by AFP, Siam, 24, seemed to validate this strategy. In addition to the “impactful, engaging” message of Seventeen, she assures us, “we saw another side of UNESCO. Aside from the performance, we were all a little inspired by the people who spoke tonight.”