Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by BTS 101
So. You’ve heard of this super-popular Korean band called BTS. Maybe you’ve stumbled across one of their videos, or seen them on a late-night talk show. Maybe you’re curious to know what all the fuss is about, so you watched a few clips.
Now you just want to know their names.
“I just wanted to know their names” is such a common first step into becoming a BTS fan – a first step that leads to a bottomless hole of content and adoration – that it’s a standard meme among the fandom. Welcome. We’re ready to embrace you.
BTS stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan” which means “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in Korean. In English, this is usually shortened to BTS, but in Korean they often refer to them as just “Bangtan” so you’ll hear that a lot, too. They made their “debut” – their first public performance on a Korean music showcase show – on June 13, 2013 and have been active ever since.
There are seven members in the band. Their stage names are RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. There are three rappers (called the “rap line”) and four vocalists (called the “vocal line”). The rap line are the usual writers and producers of their music but all seven of them have at least some writing credits on their songs.
BTS are with the production company BigHit Entertainment (now called BigHit Music and a subsidiary of Hybe Labels) and you’ll hear a lot about the company and its CEO, Bang Sihyuk, when you dive into the history of the band. The world of Kpop has a lot of preconceived notions attached to it, with a lot of outsiders imagining it is a kind of factory for pop stars. It’s not quite like that, but it’s true that most of BTS received arts-related training from a young age as part of the Kpop schooling system, and applied to be a part of the group; the group was finalized by BigHit after almost two years of auditioning members and finding just the right mix of personalities and skills. As with most Kpop groups, BTS is not just about the music, but also about putting together stunning performances through costumes, sets, and dance choreography.
In Korean culture, age is a big deal and paying proper respect to your elders, through actions and nuances of language, is very important. For this reason, the members are usually listed and described in order of age, except for RM, who we’ll get to in a moment. The older members are called “hyung” by the younger members, which is a Korean word for “older brother,” and they are sometimes called the “hyung line.” The younger members are called the “maknae line” – maknae is a word specifically for the youngest member, but in BTS, they tend to use it to refer to all of the three youngest who are often together and causing mayhem.
If you’re looking at a picture of them on a red carpet or standing on a stage, they are likely standing in their usual interview order of (left to right): V, SUGA, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, j-hope.
Got a favourite member? In the parlance of Kpop fans, your favourite member is your “bias” and other members who sometimes tempt you into preferring them are known as “bias wreckers.” Sometimes people have one “ultimate bias” but several other biases that they like very much, too. If you can’t pick just one favourite, that’s okay – we call those fans OT7 (for “one true seven”).
Note that in Korea, the family name comes first and the given name second; so for their real names listed below, the second name is their given name. Also note that although three members have the family name Kim, they are not related.
Real name: Kim Namjoon
Born: September 12, 1994, raised in Ilsan, a city just to the west of Seoul
Lines: Rap Line, Hyung Line, 94 Line
Nicknames: God of Destruction, Sexy Genius, RapMon, Joon, Joonie. Was well known as Runch Randa on the underground rap scene before he became part of BTS, and also recorded some early stuff under the names Largo, and The Nextist.
RM is the fourth oldest in the group, but is usually listed first because he’s the group leader. Most Kpop bands have a “leader” who is generally in charge of speaking on behalf of the band, keeping the group (mostly) in line, and shaping the larger career goals of the band.
RM originally stood for “Rap Monster,” and he’s still widely known as that within Korea and among older fans of the group. But he didn’t feel the name fit him well, and he officially switched to the RM moniker several years ago; fans sometimes will just call him Joon or Joonie as well. Still, he’s best known for his amazing rap skills and dazzling wordplay – he’s been rapping since he was a young teenager and has been leading BTS’ musical direction since he was only 16 years old. Especially in the early days, he was a focus of their performances and the centre of much of their music. He still writes the majority of their lyrics and many of their songs.
Namjoon is known for loving nature and art, and fans have even coined a verb – “namjooning” – to mean going out into nature or to an art gallery and just quietly appreciating and healing from the environment. Parkland along the Han River in Seoul is a favourite comfort spot for RM and locals sometimes spot him riding his bike along the trails there (he famously is the only one without a driver’s license).
North American fans usually get to know RM first because he is the only fluent English speaker. Especially in older interviews, it’s RM who does most of the talking and is clearly the frontman. RM has a legendary high IQ of 148 and is a super smart guy, but also is pretty terrible at everyday tasks and has a reputation for breaking things (and a nickname to go with it – “God of Destruction”). Still, when he talks people listen – as evidenced by his amazing speech to the UN several years ago on the topic of Love Yourself – Speak Yourself.
How you’ll know him:
- In English language interviews, he’ll be sitting next to the interviewer and doing most of the talking
- He’s the tallest, so is easy to pick out if they are all standing up
- The dimple – RM has famous cheek dimples and his left cheek in particular has a deep dimple that shows up often
- Friendship tattoo: in 2022 the 7 members each got a small “7” friendship tattoo; RM’s is on the inside of his right ankle.
- Hair check: One rule of BTS is to NEVER try to identify them by hair colour, as they change their hair as often as normal people change socks. But RM rarely has black hair – although he sometimes ventures into blue or grey, he is usually somewhere in the light brown to blonde range.
- James Cordon Carpool Karaoke location: passenger seat, next to James.
Real name: Kim Seokjin
Born: December 4, 1992, raised in Gwacheon, a suburb of the larger Seoul area
Lines: Vocal Line, Hyung Line
Nicknames: World Wide Handsome, Seokjinnie
Jin is the oldest in the group, and in theory that makes him something of a leader, but in reality he’s known for his delightfully youthful energy, his way of causing havoc wherever he goes, and in general for being very funny and very charming. The other three members of the vocal line are the three youngest, and although he is very playful with them, he also cares for them a great deal and watches out for them wherever they go.
Jin was famously recruited for BTS while getting off a bus on his way to university by a BigHit staff member. Although he had been interested in being a Kpop Idol in his youth, it didn’t pan out and he was studying acting at the time. It’s easy to see why he caught the eye of the staffer on the bus – he’s known for his good looks and unusually broad shoulders, and has the nickname “Worldwide Handsome.” In the world of Kpop, he’s what’s known as “the visual” for the group.
Jin has a lovely singing voice and his solo songs are some of BTS’ most popular. But he sometimes struggles to learn the complicated choreography associated with their performances, and he sometimes admits to feeling like he is a lesser talent in the group, a theme that his solo songs often explore.
How you’ll know him:
- He’s crazy handsome and has almost unbelievably broad shoulders; he has broken the internet a few times on red carpets
- His signature move, in live performances and on red carpets, is to dramatically and slowly blow a kiss to his fans
- He’s very funny and has a distinctive deep laugh
- Friendship tattoo: Jin’s 7 tattoo is on his left side back, just under his ribcage
- Hair check: Blonde Jin makes rare appearances and causes a big splash. But in general Jin sticks with darker tones, from black to medium brown.
- James Cordon Carpool Karaoke location: back row, passenger side – legendary speaker of the “oh you’re a joker guy!” comment.
Real name: Min Yoongi
Born: March 9, 1993, in Daegu, a city in the centre/east of South Korea
Lines: Rap Line, Hyung Line
Nicknames: Little Meow Meow, Yoongles, Min SUGA Genius, Minstradamus; also uses AgustD as his moniker for solo releases, and DJ Shup-D for his radio show, KKUL 613 FM. He was known as Gloss on the underground rap scene before joining BTS.
SUGA has been in the band since the earliest days – he and RM were the first two members. He’s a rapper and producer and has been instrumental in their overall sound from the beginning. SUGA’s raps are full of strong emotion and don’t shy away from exploring difficult or uncomfortable topics. He himself has struggled with a variety of physical and mental health problems and has been open about this in his music and in interviews.
SUGA is known for being the grumpy grandpa of the group in that he’s usually very serious and quiet, but he also has a cutting wit that sometimes zings out like a razor blade. Unlike most of the rest of BTS, he’s not very physically affectionate but he is often full of praise and kind words for the others. In the early days, SUGA often worked alone and still writes many of their songs alone before bringing them to the others. He’s known as the hardest worker in the group and the most focused on their music. He also loves basketball – his rap name comes from the first sounds in Shooting Guard, his position on his high school basketball team.
SUGA has also been open in his support of the LGBTQ community, a topic that is often taboo in Korea. He has set the tone for the whole band as being very inclusive and open to all. Some of his song lyrics and things he has said in interviews have hinted that he may be a member of the LGBTQ community himself.
How you’ll know him:
- He’s the second shortest member and pretty small overall, but has a surprisingly low, growly voice
- He doesn’t break it out very often, but when he smiles he has a “gummy smile” that shows his whole top gumline
- He has multiple piercings in each ear, wears a lot of headbands in more casual settings, and often dresses all in black
- If you learn to speak any Korean, you’ll find SUGA still has a Daegu accent and slips into Satoori – local dialect – often
- Friendship tattoo: we assume SUGA has one – but he hasn’t revealed it yet!
- Hair check: SUGA is one of the most adventurous with his hair and was the first to really embrace unusual colours. His hair can be anything from blue to white to yellow to deep red to black…and famously, mint green.
- James Cordon carpool karaoke position: back row, middle seat
Real name: Jung Hoseok
Born: February 18, 1994, in Gwangju, a city in the far southwest of South Korea
Lines: Rap Line, Hyung Line, Dance Line, 94 Line
Nicknames: Hobi, Sunshine, Hope Sound Effects, Jay (specifically for when he’s in the US and feeling himself)
J-hope is the last of the rap line and forms an interesting third point of the rap line triangle. While RM is good at wordplay and puns, and SUGA brings the deep emotion, j-hope tends to work with sounds and flow. His raps are full of cool rhymes and onomatopoeia, and he’s famous for switching up the flow of his raps literally from one line to the next.
RM, SUGA, and j-hope chose their “rap names” somewhat at random, with j-hope selecting his as a play on his real name. But it has turned into a destiny of sorts for him, in that he has become known as the “hope” and “sunshine” of BTS. He has a very bright smile and is almost always upbeat and shining, and is a delight to get to know and see perform on stage. The other members refer to him as their source of energy and positivity. He’s also known for being a very noisy person, in that he has trouble sitting still and keeping quiet in just about every situation.
Although j-hope is an excellent rapper, his first love is actually hip hop dancing and he is the lead dancer of the group. In the early days he was often front and centre in the choreography, and worked hard to train the others, and even today the other members know that if they mess up, it’s j-hope they will have to answer to. Although RM did a great deal of work in the early days to set goals and drive the band forward, j-hope was a quiet right-hand-man to RM who did a lot of the day-to-day organization and motivation for the other members.
How you’ll know him:
- The cheekbones! When j-hope smiles, his cheekbones slice through the air like knives – and he smiles and laughs often.
- In casual settings, he’s usually the most boldly dressed, in bright colours, bucket hats, oversized clothes, and often a small cross-body bag as an accessory
- On stage he’s usually somewhere at the front and dazzling everyone with his smooth, liquid-like dance moves; you’ll also see him using his catchphrase “I’m your hope, you’re my hope, I’m j-hope!”
- Friendship tattoo: despite claiming he’d never get one (and being a pretty squeamish guy in general), Hobi did get the “7” tattoo like the others – his is on the back of his right heel
- Hair check: Hobi (as fans and the other members sometimes call him) is famous for keeping it simple and almost always sticks with the chestnut brown through to medium brown range, sometimes dipping into subtle orange or red tones (although he did go with super short white/blonde hair for the Butter era). He’s also the only one without any piercings.
- James Cordon carpool karaoke position: middle row, middle seat, right between RM and James
Real name: Park Jimin
Born: October 13, 1995, in Busan, a coastal city on the southeast coast of South Korea
Lines: Vocal Line, Maknae Line, Dance Line, 95 Line
Nicknames: Jimin-sshi (means “Mr. Jimin” in Korean), ChimChim, Jiminie, Mochi
Jimin is what we like to call “the recruiter” in that almost everyone falls in love with Jimin first. He oozes charisma and, as they say, “collects men like Pokemon.” Pretty much every middle-aged man who has interviewed BTS, including Jimmy Fallon and James Cordon, is a major Jimin stan, along with actors John Cena and Simon Pegg.
Jimin was the last to be added to the band and was brought in mainly as a dancer. He has extensive contemporary dance training, and brings a little flair to the hip hop dancing that BTS usually does. In recent years, he is often given a dance solo to showcase his other dance skills as well.
In the early days, Jimin tried hard to fit the hip hop mold but after a couple of years, broke out into what we here at BTS 101 like to call his “fairy prince aesthetic” where he embraced his higher voice and very pretty looks for a more androgynous style. He is usually easy to pick out on stage both for his powerful showmanship and his attractiveness to all. But Jimin isn’t just about the physicals – he’s also an amazing singer, able to hit dazzling high notes and provide much of their ad-lib vocals. He’s also known in the band for being both super sassy and the most emotionally in-tune with others. When someone is upset or sad, it’s Jimin who is first to respond and Jimin who makes everyone feel better. As the oldest of the “maknae line” he sometimes finds himself in the role of taking care of V and Jungkook, and they adore him for it.
How you’ll know him:
- Jimin is the shortest in the group (not by much, but still, the other members will never let him forget it), and he’s also a pretty small and delicate guy in general
- On stage, he’s often front and centre and slaying the choreo
- He’s known for his perfectly symmetrical, doll-like face and the way he falls out of his chair whenever he laughs, which is often
- If you’re sharp-eyed, you might spot one of his tattoos, including “13” tattooed inside his left wrist (for his birthday and BTS’ debut date), “young” and “forever” on the back of each elbow, and “nevermind” across his torso. He also has a moon series running down his spine (you can sometimes see the crescent moon at the base of his neck) and the word “youth” behind his left ear.
- Friendship tattoo: Jimin’s 7 tattoo is on the inside of his left pointer finger – it’s placed so you can see it when he’s holding his microphone with that hand
- Hair check: Jimin sticks with the pretty tones and is usually very light brown to blonde, sometimes pink or orange. But don’t be surprised if you sometimes see him with pure black hair, too.
- James Cordon carpool karaoke position: middle row, passenger side behind RM
Real name: Kim Taehyung
Born: December 30, 1995, in Daegu, a city in the centre/east of South Korea
Lines: Vocal Line, Maknae Line, 95 Line
Nicknames: TaeTae, Good Boy, Teddy Bear, Vante (a nickname he uses when showing his photography)
V is an outside-the-box thinker and a pretty unique person. He’s very open, loving, and caring and is the number one fan of the BTS fandom, never failing to thank the fans first at every opportunity. He’s extremely physically affectionate and he’s the main reason why you’ll see most of BTS hugging, holding hands, or snuggling together constantly. He’s not a straight line thinker and sometimes has very unusual ideas that lead to greatness – he is the one who first invented the now iconic BTS line, “I purple you” instead of “I love you”, because purple, as the last colour of the rainbow, is the one that we can imagine goes on forever.
In the band, V is part of the vocal line and has a very distinctive, low, soulful voice that stands out. In their harder hip hop songs, he often turns his voice into a growl; in their softer vocal songs, he will bring the sadness and sweetness. He’s not technically part of the dance line, but he’s actually a fantastic dancer and can easily take centre stage when needed in their performances. He’s also not a great rapper but just adores the rap line and their more hardcore rap songs, and it’s no secret that V dreams of one day being invited to rap along with them on one of their rap line songs.
V is an extremely romantic person and loves old movies, and somewhat idolizes the English language even though he doesn’t speak it very well. Almost all of his solo songs are about love and romance and are in English, and he always tries to participate in English language interviews, usually with rehearsed phrases. He’s also the only one with actual acting experience, having appeared in a kDrama called Hwarang, and although he doesn’t seem keen to repeat the experience, it’s clear that he could move into acting pretty much any time he wants to.
V and Jimin were in the same arts high school together and have known each other for years. Although most of the subunits and subsets of BTS have cutesy names, the one you’ll hear most often is “Vmin” meaning V and Jimin. They are very tightly bonded and are more than just best friends – they refer to themselves as soulmates and are often a bit jealous and protective of each other. V can sometimes be pouty or emotional and it’s always Jimin who handles the situation, and they very clearly love each other very much.
How you’ll know him:
- The boxy smile – when V smiles, his mouth makes a famous rectangle shape
- The visuals – V is considered pretty universally handsome by North American audiences and causes a lot of gasps on red carpets
- The clothes – V is a bit of a fashionista and was the first to embrace big name brands in fashion, often in an avant garde way, and not limited to men’s clothes
- The dog – although several of the members have pets, V’s dog Yeontan is famous and when Yeontan is around, V is probably burying his face in her fur
- Friendship tattoo: V’s 7 tattoo is on his upper left thigh
- Hair check: V does not hesitate to go bold and his hair can be anything from black to bright red to orange to bleached blonde to brilliant blue to mint green. Plus he is the most likely to be wearing head accessories, from headbands to berets to baseball hats. You really never know what to expect.
- James Cordon carpool karaoke position: back row, driver’s side
Real name: Jeon Jungkook
Born: September 1, 1997, in Busan, a coastal city on the southeast coast of South Korea
Lines: Vocal Line, Maknae Line, Dance Line
Nicknames: Golden Maknae, Jungkookie, Kook, JK
Jungkook is the youngest member of the band and has the nickname “golden maknae” because he’s just so darn good at everything. He’s a fantastic dancer but also their best singer and lead vocalist, and he’s surprisingly good at rapping, too. He’s the only one of them that’s really any good at sports and he’s also great at painting and drawing; he’s their best driver, and he can cook, do the laundry, and clean. Is there anything JK can’t do?
Jungkook was added to the band when he was only 14 years old and has lived away from his parents since then, so the older members of BTS really raised him. After finishing well on a Korean talent reality show, several companies competed to win Jungkook, but he chose to join BTS and BigHit after meeting RM and being impressed with him. After joining, Jin became his main protector and guide and the two of them are extremely close (and appear to use shoving and smacking each other as their primary love language).
Jungkook is a pretty quiet guy offstage, and usually doesn’t say much in interviews. But he loves to perform live and dominates the stage when they are in concert. Between having a big chunk of the vocals and being one of their main dancers, he’s usually right in the front of their live performances. He’s also well-known for his physique and basically broke the internet when he flashed his abs at their performance of the song Fake Love at the Billboard Music Awards back in 2018.
Musically, JK loves American pop and has recorded several covers of top pop songs, often in collaboration with the original artists. He continues to work hard at learning English and developing his songwriting skills and now has several solo songs and credits on other BTS songs as well. He’s known for doing impromptu karaoke sessions online with the fans, both of BTS songs and other pop hits – he clearly just loves music. At home, he’s known for living the life of a broke student despite being a millionaire – he famously slept with only a rolled up towel as pillow for years and seems to survive mainly on ramen.
How you’ll know him:
- Centre of their usual red carpet lineup, often centre front when they are performing, often has the chorus part or introductory part of their songs
- Multiple piercings in each ear, and has an eyebrow and lip piercing as well that come and go (sometimes he wears them, sometimes not)
- Has the most prominent tattoos – most of his right hand is tattooed with the letters ARMY, the ARMY logo, and a purple heart, and most of his whole right arm is tattooed too, but he often keeps these hidden as tattoos in Korea are still a bit of a taboo
- Friendship tattoo: JK’s 7 tattoo is behind his left ear
- Hair check: usually keeps it black because hair dye bothers him, although there have been rare times when he was red, blonde, or blue. He is the most likely to have longer hair and in recent years has been sporting a more shaggy look.
- James Cordon carpool karaoke position: middle row, driver’s side, right behind James
The Eighth Member: ARMY
Korean Kpop bands always have a name that they give to their fandom, and for BTS, the fandom is called ARMY (technically it stands for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth” but no one ever says that). The ARMY name was announced on July 9, 2013, a few weeks after BTS made their debut, and July 9 is often celebrated as ARMY’s birthday with the release of new bonus content from BTS.
If you’ve heard of BTS, you’ve probably also heard of ARMY. BTS’ fandom is one of the most dedicated, organized, and motivated online. It’s a huge group of people worldwide – literally millions – and there is a huge range in age, background, language, and occupation. You’ll find ARMY members of all walks of life being active online, mostly on Twitter, which is also where BTS themselves have historically been the most active. There’s no question that the activities of ARMY online helped create and contribute to BTS’ ongoing success.
ARMY is truly a universally welcoming group and you will easily and quickly be embraced online. Older ARMY are happy to help baby ARMY learn the ropes with kindness and care; many ARMY are active in social causes as well as supporting BTS and other ARMY members with online activities and actual dollars.
Don’t worry about being new to the fandom – there’s very little judgement or pecking order among ARMY, and old and new fans alike are quickly brought into the fold. There’s a saying among ARMY that you find BTS exactly when you need them – when their current message is exactly what you needed to hear right then – and once you’ve arrived, you’ll enjoy catching up on their past (best to set aside a few months for this project!). As SUGA once said, “Don’t feel regretful that you weren’t there since our debut. Every moment feels just like when we first debuted. The day when you first met us, is the day we debuted.”
Be proud to call yourself ARMY! You’re one of us now.
As a Level 1 ARMY, here are a few ways to show your affection for BTS and other ARMY:
- “Saranghae” means I love you in Korean, you’ll hear everyone throwing this around
- “Borahae” means I purple you in Korean, which is a BTS-specific way of saying I love you, invented by V
- Brush up on your BTS memes, in-jokes, and sayings
- Practice some “aegyo” – a Kpop term for acting cutesy and babyish by making pouty faces, pointing to your cheek and winking, or framing your face with your hands – BTS doesn’t do this often but you’ll see them make each other do it for snacks sometimes!
- Learn to make a finger heart! This is a little symbol popular with all Kpop groups – make one with your hand by putting your index finger and thumb into a little heart shape, like this: