New K-pop boyband concept: Limitless members, multiple languages and multi-city

SEOUL • The company that pioneered South Korea's all- conquering K-pop industry unveiled its new boyband concept on Wednesday - a group with limitless members, singing in multiple languages and based in cities from Asia to Latin America.

SM Entertainment, which handles some of the biggest names in K-pop, including Super Junior and Girls' Generation, said the new band represented the final incarnation of the "Korean wave" that began with the export of Korean television dramas and pop music in the late 1990s.

"This is the true localisation of K-pop," SM Entertainment founder Lee Soo Man said at a launch in Seoul.

The group or, rather, collection of sub-groups, will go under the umbrella title of NCT, which stands for Neo Culture Technology - a name that some fans quickly took to ridiculing on social networks.

"Sounds like a tech company," tweeted one K-pop aficionado, while another said NCT was an acronym better suited for a national examination.

Lee said the group already had 40 members, of which a handful would form an initial unit that will start performing in Seoul and Japan in the next few months.

"New members will be freely recruited with no limits on the number," Lee said.

Other NCT incarnations will later be unveiled in major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, in the second half of the year, followed by "units" in South-east Asia and Latin America. As well as singing the same songs in different languages, they will produce content especially tailored for their particular markets.

"This is the last stage of the Korean wave," Lee declared.

Some industry observers noted that the NCT concept bore striking similarities to the hugely popular Japanese girl band AKB48 that has been around for more than 10 years. Originally made up of 48 members, but now numbering more than 130, AKB48 are split into several teams who perform simultaneously in several places.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Limitless number of members in this boyband'. Print Edition | Subscribe