BTS – What’s in a Name?

This is a procrastination post while I’m filing my taxes.

Some of this information is already widely known and nothing special, but I just wanted a place to organize these fun little bits of information.





BTS rebranded in July 2017 to add Beyond the Scene to their pre-existing name.  They didn’t really get rid of their old name – I believe this is just an additional meaning to their name as they open the doors to head out beyond where they are right now.

This brand identity design won awards for Coporate Identity/Branding category at the iF Design Awards.


bts old logo

방탄소년단/Bangtan Sonyeondan

방탄/Bangtan =>  Bulletproof.

소년/Sonyeon => boy

단/Dan =>  squad/group of people.


Who translated this as “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” early in their career???!!  Because “Boy Scouts” in Korea are actually called “Boy Scouts,” not “Sonyeondan”.

The actual feel of the word 소년단/Soneyondan is more like “boy squad” or “military youth group”.

There is a group called “소년단/Soneyondan” in North Korea, which is a high prestige group of young boys for North Korean propaganda.  Thus, when BTS debuted a lot of South Koreans thought their name also sounded kind of North Korean (and not very trendy).

The recent Billboard article also notes that “[Bang PD] says that people thought the “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” name had a North Korean feel, but he felt that they would become a metaphorical bulletproof vest for their generation.”

Generally the name means they will advocate for the young generation even if they’re criticized and attacked by prejudice.


Unfortunately, having this long name in Korean meant that most people shorten their name to Bangtan.  If you look at the Google search in Korea, you’ll notice that 방탄/Bangtan is used much more than full 방탄소년단/Bangtan Sonyeondan….  so not helpful for their Brand name ranking databases.

google trends bts



We are standing on the other side of the door to BTS on the logo..


Adorable Representative M.C for Youth

As much as we cringe about this acronym….

MC  is a Master of Ceremonies/speaker.  “Representative MC for Youth” is actually very similar in meaning to what BTS stands for – an advocate for youth.

As for “Adorable”…….  Even my husband doesn’t call me adorable, but hey.  I’ll take adorable where I can get it.  ^^


When this acronym was decided in 2013, RM posted question on how to pronounce this in Korean.

I’m RapMon.  How should I call you…  아르미.. 아미.. 김 아름..  김아르미.. 앎이.. 알미..?


Korean is written phonetically but there isn’t exact match for the letter R.

R – sound is often represented by but the exact pronunciation is a bit different.  Sometimes, they’ll just leave the R out of the word.  Or give R it’s own syllable,  – pronounced reu.


Let’s look at each of these options.


아미 (Ah-Mie)

This is the way that they generally pronounce it these days and the most common way it is written in Korean. Where they omit the R altogether.

Sounds like French word Ami, meaning friend, giving it a cute additional layer to its meaning.

알미 – Ar-mie/Al-mie.  This is just written the way it is pronounced as well, but without omitnig the R. The in Korean sounds more like L than R, so sounds kind of like Al-mie.  This version is not used these days.


아르미 (Ah-Reu-Mi)
김 아름 (Kim Ah-Reum), 김 아르미 (Kim Ah-Reu-Mi)

This is like saying ARMY very slowly drawn out.    Ah-Reum is the “Beauty” part of the world “Beautiful” in Korean.

아르미 (Ah-Reu-Mi) sounds like Beaut-ie – an effectionate term for something beautiful.

Also, in their V-Live about Lunar New Years 2018 (at 21:00), RM wrote ARMY as is A and  is prououced Mi in Korea, which is Chinese character for beautiful.


Years after this tweet, RM ended up being the Kim Army in the skit “House of Army” at their fanmeet. ^^


앎이 (Arm-Ie)

in Korean means knowledge.  So this has kind of nice meaning too.  Those who are knowledgeable.


ARMY (military)

And there’s the simple Army as the meaning, not as an acronym.  Occasionally Korean fans will say “I’ve had 입대(conscripted into the military), and now I’m part of the 군대 (goondae=army).”

In Korea, able bodied men are required to do mandatory military service for 21 months (likely to be decreased to 18 months soon) before they’re in their 30’s.

Leads to conversations like this:

guy in 20’s: I just watched some BTS peformance and it was really good.
ARMY: You should join the army.
guy: I already did my army service.
ARMY:  Joining the army is how we call joining BTS fandom because the fandom is called ARMY.  In your case, I guess you can say you’re re-conscripting into the army.
guy: Nooo~~  Even if it’s just a metaphor, don’t tell me to re-conscript!!  That’s every guy’s worst nightmare!!




RM/RapMon/Rap Monster

This is just my personal impression when I first heard his name long time ago.

In Western world, Pokemon is…called Pokemon.

However, in Korea, Pokemon is often called the full Pocket Monster.  So when I heard his name Rap Monster, the name actually sounded cute.  My impression of the name was… he must be an anime geek.  He wants to be a pokemon that raps.  How cute. ^^

Kind of like how Snoop Dogg name would remind you of Snoopy.

Update:  The Intro: What Am I To You has lyrics also referencing Pokemon (thanks to 0613 for this info)
“I’m yo Pocket Monster
You gave me your heart, and I gave you all of mine”



Now he’s formally shortened his name to RM – which can encompass various meanings including “Real Me“. (thanks 0613 and criticalkpop94 in comments for links ^^)

Honestly, the RM as his name has been long time in coming and I’m sure we all expected it since his 2015 mixtape, which essentially shows his identity in evolution.







Bomb is pronounced (bahm) in Korean.

also means night in Korean.

Bangtan Bombs = Bangtan Nights.


I don’t know if this was intentional or just end up being like this, but this reminds me of Arabian Nights.  Coincidentally, the title fits as the Bangtan Bombs are kind of like short but numerous stories that helped BTS’s survival in the industry long enough for them to be appreciated enough to no longer have to worry about survival.




花樣年華/화양연화/The Most Beautiful Moments in Life/HYYH

HYYH title is translated in all kinds of ways.


Literal translation:

花: flower
樣: shape
年: year
華: shine

–> The years that shine and are beautiful like flowers.

This refers to the most beautiful moments in life, and implies just like the flower, this beautiful time is transient and will wilt.  There a sense that the beauty is amplified because it is fleeting.

花樣年華 is written as 화양연화 in Korean, which is written phonetically. I believe the pronunciation is a bit changed from original Chinese. In Korea, 花 and 華 are both pronounced 화 (hwa) despite having different meaning.


This, of course, is why J-Hope’s lines in 2!3! mentions flower.  Flower is what defines the shape of HYYH as something beautiful.

(So thanks) for believing in me even if I’m like this
For willing to deal with my tears and hurts
(So thanks) for being my light/shine
For being the flower of my HYYH 



Because 花樣年華 is a pre-existing Chinese Idiom and title of a Hong Kong movie from 2000 which was translated as “In the Mood for Love,”, sometimes the series is also called “In the Mood for Love.”


Just personally, I also really like the logo for this era, which takes consonants in Korean way of writing 화양연화 and turn them into an abstract design.


hyyh logo



10 thoughts on “BTS – What’s in a Name?

  1. I love this blog post. I’m a major Kpop Fan. I was a good ARMY Fan since 2013.
    I listen to every one of Kpop Melody, and Bangtan Boys and BlackPink are
    the particular 2 kpop group that I liked the most.

  2. I’ve been waiting for someone to compile the whole thing in detail. I gathered all of this information in bits and pieces through their concert videos, tweets and translations. It’s nice to read it somewhere in full! Thanks a lot! I have one question though: does the title mean the same in Korean 화양연화? I also noticed that the beginning and ending is the same which I found really interesting haha.

    Also, the interview where he mentions “Real Me” is here:

    “What does it mean to you right now?
    RM: I don’t know, like, “Real Me” or something.”

    1. Thank you for the link. :) updated.
      The Korean is written phonetically and the two different Chinese characters are pronounced the same, which is why the beginning and ending is the same character for 화양연화.

    1. Thank you for the link. ^^ updated.
      It’s been so long since I listened to some of their old songs carefully with lyrics. I should do that again. ^^ Added the bit about the Intro. Thanks~~

      1. Thank you. There are some songs that I would specially like to read the analysis from you: Cypher pt.1, Intro: What Am I To You, Intro : Skool Luv Affair, We On, Hip Hop Lover ^^

        1. Ah, and Move. I really like ‘Move’. I’m not sure if you see this, I just want to share with you something cute in the lyrics of this song

          In Namjoon’s verse, there is a line

          ”17평 아홉 연습생 코찔찔이 시절
          엊그제 같은데 그래 우리도 꽤 많이 컸어”

          (The 17 pyeong with 9 trainee, those snotty nosed kid times
          Seem like yesterday we’ve grown a lot too)

          And in Hidden Skit: Hesitation & Fear, he also used exactly same term ‘코찔찔이’ to refer Bangtan in not once, but twice.
          “근데 참 옛날에 진짜 코찔찔이들이 진짜 많이 컸다”
          “코찔찔이였는데, 그치?”

          It’s just too cute to think about this, how they realized that they’ve been grown a lot in past few years, from someone who thought Grammys is a singer and now received an awards in BBMAs, or perform in the stage & venue that they had never imagined. But more important, I can see that their thoughts & the way they organize their words are really mature now. I also feel like I’ve grown along with Bangtan through the period of 3 years I like them and I learn so much about Bangtan.

          1. “We On” is one of my favourite BTS songs of all time. ^^ I am super slow so I don’t know if/when I’ll get around to doing these songs but I have a list of the songs I am considering doing, so I’ll add them to the list.

            코찔찔이 is such a cute term. Snotty nosed kids. ^^ Especially endearing because it implies kind of slightly poor/grubby young kids, rather than just being young – where their moms are either too busy working, or they’re away from their parents, so nobody stops them if they’re snotty/wiping their nose on their sleeves instead of a tissue, etc. ^^

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