A picture of the seven members of BTS posing together.

This Is How Every BTS Member Was Discovered

Even without radioactive spiders, this is an epic origin story.

Get working on the “want to feel old” memes, because next year will mark BTS’ 10th anniversary in the K-Pop industry. On June 2023, it will be a decade since their debut with EP 2 Cool 4 Skool and the lead singles, “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2” and “No More Dream”. BTS started out as rookies from a relatively unknown agency, but grew into the chart-topping giants they are today with a discography that’s absolutely packed with bop after bop, and a fanbase ready to spread their message of self-love in every corner of the world. Even people who have never listened to a single K-pop song have probably heard of BTS. They’ve permeated pop culture on a major level, and if you know one thing about the genre, it’s probably their name. So, ahead of this anniversary, we wanted to delve into BTS’ origin story. How did this group of world-renown superstars form?

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Who are the members of BTS?

Let’s start with the names of its seven members. By now, there probably isn’t a fandom space left where their names haven’t been mentioned at least once. But for those new to the K-pop scene, I’ll list them again, if only because I love spelling out their names—basking in my love for them. Namjoon, known also by his stage name, RM, is the leader of the group and part of its rap line. Kim Seokjin, a.k.a. Jin, is the oldest member of the group and a vocalist. Then there’s rapper Min Yoongi, a.k.a. SUGA (Agust D in solo work), who’s a very in-demand producer throughout the K-Pop industry, and Jung Hoseok, a.k.a. J-hope, the final of the group’s three rappers and BTS’ main dancer. The final three members are: Park Jimin, known simply as Jimin, part of both the vocal and dance lines, Kim Taehyung, a.k.a. V, a vocalist and dancer (as well as an actor), and Jeon Jeongguk, a.k.a. Jungkook, the group’s maknae (youngest member) and main vocalist.

How were the BTS stars discovered?

What might not be as widespread as the Bangtan Boys’ (a.k.a. BTS) names and roles is how they were all discovered and added to the lineup of the group Big Hit—that its CEO, Bang Sihyuk, was busy building throughout the late 2000s and the early 2010s. And it all starts with Namjoon.

Namjoon was already active on the underground hip hop scene of Seoul—with the stage name Runch Randa when he was a teenager. He was part of a couple of rap groups and had amassed quite some notoriety when he auditioned for the (then small) label Big Hit at 16. Bang PD (the name Bang Sihyuk is most known as—both in the industry and the fandom) signed him pretty much on the spot and planned originally to debut him in a five or six-person group focused mainly on hip hop. When that project fell through, Bang PD decided to switch genres—mixing hip hop with other more “idolesque” elements to build a new group specifically around Namjoon.

The second member to join Big Hit’s yet unnamed group was Yoongi, also an active underground rapper—under the stage name Gloss —in his hometown of Daegu. Yoongi joined a rap competition hosted by Big Hit and ended up getting second place, as well as an offer to begin working with the company as a producer. Eventually, he was persuaded to switch careers and become an idol, and that’s how he met Namjoon, with whom he’s been friends for more than ten years. And they will never let us forget it, crying every time they talk about their friendship. Truly #BFFGoals.

Hoseok was the third arrival in BTS, and he was brought in initially for his ability as a dancer. But Bang PD saw potential in him as a rapper as well, and Hoseok got to work learning the art of rapping from scratch. BTS have also often talked about one particular moment during their pre-debut days, when Hoseok decided that he wanted to quit the group—and how Namjoon declared that they “couldn’t make it without Jung Hoseok.” Eventually, Hoseok stayed—and ended up becoming part of the biggest group in the world, and also, of one of the best rap lines currently active in the industry. If not the best.

Seokjin’s story of joining BTS is as unique as he is. He was approached twice on the street by K-Pop recruiters—once by an SM Entertainment agent in what (Seokjin believed) was a full-out scam, and then by a Big Hit representative. Seokjin joined Big Hit initially to become an actor, but he was convinced by Bang PD, and the rest of the members, to try out as a vocalist for the new group. That turned out pretty well.

Jungkook’s origin story is beloved by ARMYs everywhere. Jungkook started auditioning at a very young age, and when he was fourteen, he joined a talent show hoping to catch the attention of a K-Pop company. He did, in fact, get contacted by seven different agencies, including the biggest names in the industry like JYP Entertainment and Cube Entertainment. But Jungkook chose Big Hit, a relatively unknown label, because Big Hit had Namjoon. Jungkook has said in multiple interviews that his first thought when he met Namjoon was that he was the coolest guy Jungkook had ever seen, and so he decided he wanted to work with him for as long as possible.

And now I have to go sit down and take a ten-minute pause to absorb the beauty that is Namkook’s friendship.

Continuing on, while wiping my tears, there’s Taehyung, who went to the auditions Big Hit was holding in his hometown, Daegu, to accompany a friend. He had no plans to try out for the agency himself, but he was convinced by recruiters as he got there. He ended up being the only candidate from Daegu to pass to the next round. Even after he was signed to Big Hit, and added to the lineup of would-be-BTS, he was kept as a secret from fans—as a “secret member.” His presence was revealed only a few days prior to the group’s debut. It was not a particularly pleasant experience for Taehyung, and he has shared his feelings on the matter a few times now.

The final member to join BTS was Jimin, under the suggestion of his contemporary dance teacher in Busan. A great dancer from a very young age—specializing in modern and contemporary, whereas Hoseok’s strong suits are street style and hip hop—Jimin rounded up the group, joining both the dance and vocal lines. His time as a trainee was the shortest, as he arrived in Seoul in 2012 and the group officially debuted in 2013.

So, there you have it, the origin of the members of the biggest boy band in the world. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off to go listen to every one of their hit songs, on repeat, for the rest of the afternoon.

(via: Seoulspace; image: Big Hit/HYBE)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.