Meet Your Next K-pop Obsession NCT 127 (And Marvel At K-pop Industry Machinations)

Are you ready for more incredibly beautiful and talented people to lovingly gaze at on your Twitter timeline? And maybe beg for them to kick you in the face?

Well, have we got the band for you. NCT 127 is a South Korean boy group who first debuted in July 2016, but fans are currently gearing up for the release of their second studio album Neo Zone later this week and as per, going wild for the teaser trailer for the music video for “Kick It,” coming out March 5th. Please watch the glory below, the production values are better than some feature films we’ve watched recently.

NCT 127, ICYMI, recently finished a successful world tour, including a history-making performance at the Macy’s Parade in New York for Thanksgiving last year (they’re the first Korean artists to ever perform at the event). And, because this is K-pop, they aren’t slowing down: another tour is planned for this year. Putting on our economics hat for a second, that means (even without touring in China) the group is generating enough revenue for back-to-back world tours.

What’s interesting is the band kind of serves as a cipher for K-pop’s meticulous marketing and thoughtful group construction: it’s a machine unto itself and completely unlike others. Like… please look at this content calendar, other music industries could never.

Currently comprised of ten members (Taeil, Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Mark and Haechan) the band is actually a second sub-unit of the band NCT. 

It’s a strategy that’s been gaining more and more favour among major South Korean entertainment companies, creating super or “main” groups and then having units made up of different variations of members branching off from that. Even their name reflects this: NCT 127 stands for Neo Culture Technology, and 127 references Seoul’s longitude (so this particular group is the Seoul based contingent of this new concept).

SM Entertainment, NCT 127’s label and K-pop giant, has adopted a strategy of hyper-localisation for a bunch of different markets. SM’s A&R executive Chris Lee describes NCT as characterising the ‘third stage’ of SM’s expansion. 

The first was crafting one giant universal success (the band H.O.T. which was pushed indiscriminately into multiple global markets), the second was working with international artists (Chinese members of EXO were dropped into EXO-M, ‘m’ for Mandarin).  NCT is the third “glocalisation” phase: “they are recruited and casted from China and Asian markets,” explains Lee. “They all speak Chinese and they are managed by Chinese company called Label V. We have plans to make things like NCT Thai, NCT Hollywood, NCT Europe.”

Another current success story is SuperM. Next to BTS, SuperM is probably the biggest band in the world atm, and was a deliberate collaboration between SM Town and the U.S. music juggernaut Capitol Records.

SuperM is made of alumni from the groups SHINee, Exo, WayV and Taeyong and Mark from NCT 127. Or basically, K-pop royalty. It’s an indicator of the international demand and investment in South-K cultural products, and hoo boy are they ready to meet that need. (Our SuperM biases are Lucas and Ten… for reasons.)

In China, legislation prevents Korean entertainers from promoting themselves. So, naturally, SM Entertainment built a shell corporation in China called Label V to promote WayV. Let me say this again: the group was specifically constructed to hit the Chinese market. 

And the angels in WayV? They’re comprised of rookies from Hong Kong, Thai and South Korean backgrounds who learnt Korean and Chinese to be able to debut and serve the market. Can you imagine the pre-req for your job being you have to become tri-lingual? I can’t. What kings.

But anyway, back to NCT 127. The teaser for their latest music video has also been noted by some fans to have a distinctly Chinese aesthetic, and we can kinda see the Wong Kar Wai vibes tbh? Of course, because this is K-pop stan twitter, there’s already been speculation about whether that’s actually culturally appropriative or just a sly way of promoting given this particular group can’t advertise in China. 

Look, this discourse is beyond me, a mere mortal who is still humming Hello. To all the NCT 127 fans out there, good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour of being kicked in the face.

For all the people out there who are yet to become NCT 127 stans, we’ve compiled a handy guide to finding ur cute fave, below: 

Taeyong

Name: Lee Taeyong

Known for: A lead in the group, Taeyong is a multi-talent rapper, singer and dancer known for being extremely good-looking. One of his nicknames is 2D Taeyong, because he’s literally as perfect as a manga character. Also known for being a bit of a clean freak (hence his other nickname, Taebreze).

Taeil

Name: Moon Taeil

Known for: Another main vocalist in the group, baby boy is actually the oldest member of NCT 127 at 24. He actually chose to go down the gruelling idol route than university, and we are, so thankful, because, I mean these vocals.

Johnny

Name: Suh Youngho / John Suh 

Known for: What do Johnny and Chance the Rapper have in common? Both our homeboys are repping Chicago. Born and raised in Chi-town, Johnny moved to Seoul and spent nine years as a trainee before debuting in 2017. Because of his physical abilities, he’s also nicknamed Johnny-cal.

Yuta

Name: Nakamoto Yuta

Known for: A soccer-player turned dancer, Yuta was born in Japan and moved to Seoul at 17 for idol training. And what a dancer he is. From a literal TWO SECONDS in the teaser for Kick It where he begins walking to the centre, fans are speculating he’s going to have a hectic dance solo.

Doyoung

Name: Kim Dongyoung

Known for: Okay so… apparently he’s quite well known for his gums? His beautiful teeth? Idek. Doyoung is another of NCT 127’s main vocalists, officially joining the group later in 2017 and is affectionately knowns as bunny, because of how cute he is when he eats. 

Jaehyun

Name: Jung Jaehyun / Jung Yoonoh

Known for: A dancer, vocalist and sometimes rapper, Jaehyun’s journey into K-pop began when he was scouted by SM (oh, to be that good looking) and debuted with NCT in 2016. He’s also one of the group’s English-speaking members, having spent time in Connecticut as a child. 

Winwin

Name: Dong Sicheng

Known for: This rapper and dancer is part of the China Number One push, hailing from Wenzhou, Zhejiang in China. You know why they call him Winwin? Because he never loses. I’m only partially joking.

Mark

Name: Lee Minhyung / Mark Lee

Known for: A rap god and vocalist, Mark debuted at the tender age of 16 with NCT, and hasn’t stopped hustling since. He’s had more comebacks than any NCT member, writes his own verses, is also in SuperM and hails from the great white north (Canada). Do less Mark. 

Haechan

Name: Lee Donghyuck

Known for: Being baby. Haechan is the group’s youngest member, as well as a lead vocalist and dancer. He apparently can be quite clingy and affectionate to his bandmates, again, baby.

Jungwoo

Name: Kim Jungwoo

Known for: A lead vocalist and dancer in the group, Jungwoo is known for being incredibly cute, and is often a bit flustered when put on the spot. But aren’t we all? We’ll protect u bebe Jungwoo.

Monisha is a writer with a background in publishing and digital media. A chronic Pisces, she’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.

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