Trump card: Dots appearance

Captain Yoo Si Jin (above) on Descendants Of The Sun holding a placard with the words "Red Velvet over girlfriend". Red Velvet comprise Yeri, Wendy, Joy, Irene and Seul Gi.
Captain Yoo Si Jin (above) on Descendants Of The Sun holding a placard with the words "Red Velvet over girlfriend". Red Velvet comprise Yeri, Wendy, Joy, Irene and Seul Gi.PHOTO: SM ENTERTAINMENT
Captain Yoo Si Jin on Descendants Of The Sun holding a placard with the words "Red Velvet over girlfriend". Red Velvet comprise (from far left) Yeri, Wendy, Joy, Irene and Seul Gi.
Captain Yoo Si Jin on Descendants Of The Sun holding a placard with the words "Red Velvet over girlfriend". Red Velvet comprise (from far left) Yeri, Wendy, Joy, Irene and Seul Gi.PHOTO: SM ENTERTAINMENT

Girl group Red Velvet could not have asked for a better way to begin stepping out of the shadow of their SM Entertainment label mates Girls' Generation and Exo: They appeared in the finale of the hugely popular drama series Descendants Of The Sun.

In the show, even the suave leading man Captain Yoo Si Jin could not take his eyes off the lasses as he bops along to the group's performance for the South Korean troops, holding a placard with the Korean words "Red Velvet over girlfriend".

Red Velvet's exposure on a highly rated drama is no doubt timely publicity for their latest EP, The Velvet, which was released in March. It topped the album chart of the prominent Korean Gaon music chart when it was first released in March.

Amid the deluge of girl groups, Red Velvet - comprising Wendy, 22; Joy, 19; Irene, 25; Seul Gi, 22; and Yeri, 17 - have had a leg-up from the start with the backing of mega K-pop star factory SM Entertainment.

Since debuting in 2014, they have been heavily promoted on all kinds of platforms.

Red Velvet merchandise - including herbal tea featuring their cartoon likeness and flavoured sparkling water inked with their name - are sold at a mini mart at the SM Building in Cheongdam-dong.

Joy is engaged in a pretend romance with boyband BtoB's Yook Sung Jae on virtual celebrity marriage programme We Got Married.

Red Velvet leader Irene has a coveted spot as an emcee of music programme Music Bank - fans surround her to prevent her from leaving the television station. But she takes it in the right spirit.

"The fans are really cute. They just want to spend more time with me," she tells The Straits Times.

While Red Velvet are relatively new to the industry, their formula for success is a familiar one - it includes close supervision of K-pop acts to present and preserve their pristine image.

During this interview with regional media, a translator reads out questions from an approved list of pre-submitted questions.

An SM staff scrutinises photos snapped by reporters on their mobile phones and cameras before giving the greenlight for photos to be published.

And as one would expect, Wendy says she feels energised from the adoring gaze of fervent fans. "Fans holding placards look at us as if we are someone they love, hoping that we will look at them. I can feel their gaze even though I'm looking at the camera," she trills.

Ditto Joy's appreciation of fans: "I'm amazed when foreign fans turn up at our performances. I'm really grateful to our foreign fans who even put in the effort to learn the Korean language for us."

There is still a market for cookie-cutter K-pop in South Korea and abroad, after all.

•Watch Red Velvet in Descendants Of The Sun Episode 16, which is available on Korean streaming site and app Viu.

•The Velvet is available at CD-Rama outlets and digital platform such as KKBOX and Singtel AMPed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Trump card: Dots appearance'. Print Edition | Subscribe