NCT, SM Rookies and S.M. Entertainment’s Co-Creation!


It has been a while, but I’m back with a post focusing on the business side of K-Pop! On January 27th, I came across the song Switch by SR16B, who were known as S.M. Entertainment’s (SME) soon-to-debut boy group that are now going by the name of NCT Neo Cultural Technology, also regarded as a brand that will be localized across different countries that have a large K-Pop following, not only in East Asia, but also in the South East Asian and South American region (NCT sounds like a tech. university’s name, doesn’t it? Update [07/02/16]: Or a marketing company’s name according to one of the netizens mentioned here =P).

I suppose it was the right timing to come across the song Switch and be reminded of SR16B because a couple of hours later, there were newly released teasers of the group that created a bit of excitement and buzz for SME‘s fans. I actually like the following song and thought that SHINee sang it, since it has more of a SHINee sound and vibe to it. The song also has a nice meaning and it includes how one feels when on his/her way to achieve a dream, just like how NCT is on their way of achieving their dream to debut.

Regarding the name, Neo Cultural Technology, I have a feeling that it may have come from SME‘s slogan, “The future of cultural technology”. Cultural technology is a part of SME‘s core business strategy of promoting the Hallyu Wave, but I’m not going to go into details regarding that because I think the words itself are self-explanatory, especially when you think of how many of us non-Koreans from all over the world are listening to Korean pop, which has also led us to learning about Korean culture (or Chinese culture if you’re a fan of their Chinese artists), and how we came to discover it through technology, particularly the Internet!


A summary on SM Rookies with a focus on “co-creation” by SMROOKIES INTERNATIONAL

It’s also known among K-Pop fans, even those that aren’t interested in business, that SME is the No.1 K-Pop company when it comes to marketing and advertising through multiple social media platforms, while maintaining a track record of producing high quality content. For me, SME, a company that I used to be very fond of since I first heard of them in 2009 (there’s a post on my Facebook from a few years ago with the caption along the lines of “SM Family” with a hearteu =P, but now….), is also slightly deceptive, and this was after realizing near the end of 2012 that they may have used the content from some of my blog posts (and probably other fans’ too) to promote one of their artists and shape some aspects of his image as part of their co-creation marketing strategy. Those that have been following my blog since the early days of EXO may understand what I mean by this.

SME doesn’t keep it a secret that co-creation has been one of their strategies, although most likely very different in the pre-Internet era, for alluring female fans of the 90’s boy group H.O.T. It’s just that not many may have heard much about it because it hasn’t been widely spoken of until now, as is in the case of SM Rookies. When I first heard about it, I felt compelled to write the post, A Co-Creation Marketing Strategy in K-Pop?, and address my concerns. Please do also read the comments underneath the post, especially the last few, to see what I and other readers had written before EXO Kris‘ lawsuit, and tell me whether all of what we said is one big “coincidence”, because as I’ve been stating for two years now, to me it surely doesn’t look like it. Moreover, I’ve always felt like my blog was being watched by “insiders” when I wrote about Kris and started becoming more open about the entertainment industry, particularly its dark side. With the events that followed, it felt as if I may have been right.

There are moments when I have a strong intuition about certain things, but when everything is so easily accessible online, and a company finds something noteworthy and interesting for marketing purposes, don’t you think they would take it as an opportunity to incorporate that as part of feedback to later act upon? I guess this goes without saying that my hunch about SME utilizing social media to observe fans, study their behavior and reaction (aka consumer psychology), as well as to use the content that fans put online about their favorite K-Pop group, or artist, or even the company itself, to add value to their brand, is no longer a “rumor”…but very much a reality that SME is becoming slightly more transparent about, as I will discuss in regards to their new app., SMROOKIES Entertainment. Before discussing it, though, it would be good to touch upon the topic of “neuro-marketing”.

Consumer Psychology

The components of consumer psychology
(Credit: As watermarked)


Did you know that many big companies have live feedback from consumers stored on their CRM systems and also have neuroscientists working on their marketing team, with their work being referred to as “neuro-marketing”? Their goal is to better understand their consumers from an “unconscious” level, so that they can keep them hooked onto whatever they’re selling at an emotional level (because an emotional appeal is always more stronger than a logical appeal), and thus create stronger consumer loyalty. So if one finds it hard to break free from a K-Pop star, it’s because he/she has become emotionally attached to that star through his/her heavily marketed image. For the company that manages that K-Pop star, that’s a huge plus.

K-Pop fans would benefit a lot from learning about marketing, because there’s no doubt that a large chunk of K-Pop’s success and the reason that fans are attracted to a particular celeb. in the first place is based on marketing! Learning about it will also help fans to understand more about other companies across different industries and the way they attract the people to their products. The following articles on neuroscience and marketing are worth reading for better understanding:

With that said, it’s interesting that SME has now come up with an app. called SMROOKIES ENTERTAINMENT where a fan can be a “producer” of the SM Rookies project (SM Rookies being the name for a group of SME‘s trainees, including SR16B) and where SME can use some of that fan’s ideas in reality and give him/her a “reward” in return… =P So now they’re not only accessing content or gaining information from fans from personal blogs, forums, or other SNS, but also gaining it from their very own app. where fans are willing to produce content that SME will see, and which would be easier for the company to collect, store, and monitor or study. The app. can almost me be used as part of an experiment (if SME isn’t using it as part of one already, which I highly doubt).

Red Velvet and Care Bears

SME‘s Red Velvet color concept and Care Bears…. Dream Of Being A K-Pop Star With A Care Bears Concept?

Having said that, where’s my “reward” for the “ideas” that SME used, especially for Kris? Remember the infamous moment of Kris and Ace Wu that showed fans Kris‘ warm side, which seemed to have drawn inspiration from this blog post of mine and led to this outcome? =P The evidence is pretty startling, and I think what angered me about such a situation happening more than once was that they acted as if it was their own “idea” and Kris played along with it! Here’s a basic 101 rule for understanding a girl… if you want to be on a girls’ nice side, you have to show some appreciation. Knowing that SME primarily targets females, I thought this would have been the first thing they knew about their consumers! -_-

I also find this post of mine from 2013 called, Dream of Being A K-Pop Star With A Care Bears Concept, a bit suspicious now that Red Velvet, who were part of SM Rookies and debuted in 2014 during a very controversial time for SME, which was when Kris “filed a lawsuit” on the company, have the same color concept as the Care Bears, as one can clearly see in the last pic. of the post! If that’s not enough to make you think it’s suspicious, notice that Red Velvet featured a pink bear in its debut MV, Happiness, which later became SMTOWN‘s current mascot (SMTOWN being the name of a community or “family” of SME‘s artists and fans). Previously, SMTOWN‘s mascot was a bunny! =P

When suspicious things happen more than once with the person that you were a fan of, and you know from gut feeling that SME have lurked around here, you start to question EVERYTHING. It doesn’t help that right under that post a reader recommended that I should work for SME as well. So who really knows? Maybe I was part of an experiment that I didn’t know about, which ties in with the concept of the following app.:

On the iTunes app. store, the app. is given the description, “A star made by me, Social producing,” and under the section “Producing”, it states:

The producer’s opinions reflected in reality. From small events to unit activities and actual debut. Participate in entertainment production in various ways, such as voting and proposing ideas that are needed to make decisions throughout the process. —SMROOKIES ENTERTAINMENT APP

In other words, co-creation and the fan being responsible in the process of promoting the star. A fan or “producer’s” opinions for promoting can come from blog posts too. Remember the videos on co-creation that I shared in this post? Hah! To me this app. also looks like another way of getting a fan attached to a trainee before he/she debuts and making that attachment stronger than what most of us have been accustomed to during a group’s debut in the past…

According to Soompi and Mwave in December, 2013:

SM Rookies is a pre-debut team of trainees currently practicing under SM Entertainment. SM Rookies will introduce SME’s new “Co-Creation” system. Fans will be able to participate in preliminary events and showcases before the official debut. The rookies will have the freedom to form different groups with each other, and show their day-to-day lives and practices to their fans. These rookies will also participate in concert and variety shows to win the hearts of fans. We can also expect covers of songs by their company’s seniors and their own originally composed songs in open performances to showcase their talents.

According to SME on December 3, SM Rookies is a new star-in-the-making brand that will highlight the pre-debut team of SM trainees. The agency announced that it plans on unveiling more and more about these rookies so that the audience can get familiar with the rookies as they work toward becoming a star. Ahead of their official debut, the rookies will be releasing songs and participating in a variety of activities.

My only concern is for the young-lings, who are often the main target by the media, trying to break free from being a fan of someone that may never have the same attachment or investment towards them, especially if they’re “growing up” alongside the soon-to-be star that they’re a fan of. The earlier the attachment and more time invested, the harder it is to move on. I say this because I already know hard it has been for many past and current fans to break free, and these are fans that only discovered a trainee just a few months before his/her debut, and who was also kept as a “secret” throughout the many years that he/she was training under his/her company.

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“I Am You, You Are Me”


Recently, I watched a compilation of K-Pop hits for January 2016, and a few seconds Zico‘s I Am You, You Are Me caught my attention that I had to check out the full MV. The music in Zico‘s I Am You, You Are Me is relaxing and has that same feel as Red Velvet‘s Somethin Kinda Crazy. It does sound a bit nostalgic for some reason. The lyrics of the song are also interesting and tie in with the concept of the MV, except I’m not a fan of the few mushy lyrics that pop up later on in the song.

I’ve never seen this side of Zico before, but maybe it’s because I’m not in the loop with Block B, anyways. I find the concept of the MV well-executed. I had to re-watch it more than twice to catch the palindromes, which is when a word or a sentence can be spelled or read the same forwards and backwards, such as “Madam, I’m Adam”. That phrase itself can be seen at 3:33 of the MV. Another palindrome in the MV is the sign outside the convenience store, “Level”, which can be seen at the start of the MV. Moreover, at 3:11 when the girl flips over the sign, “Open”, instead of saying, “Closed”, it still says, “Open”, which is an indication, or an allusion, that the MV contains palindromes.

MV’s with interesting concepts like this one and f(x)‘s 4 Walls, which focused on the butterfly effect, are ones that usually leave a lasting impression on me the first time of watching them. They’re like solving puzzles.

Initially, I thought that Zico was stalking the pretty girl working at the convenience store and was deliberately dressing up like her (I would have said, “What a creep!” if that were the case. =P Trust me, it can be scary and uncomfortable for a girl to be stalked that way), but then I quickly realized that it portrays the many “coincidences” between Zico and her. These coincidences include wearing the same kind of outfits and accessories or even being caught in a similar situation at the same time, such as having untied shoe laces or a hurt finger. This leads to the viewer thinking that they were destined to be together, and that they are each others’ half…the one and the same, and thus, “I Am You, You Are Me”.

Now here’s where I want to share my own personal thoughts. Just because there are “coincidences” between two people, it doesn’t necessarily always have to mean that they’ll be together forever. It could simply mean that their paths were meant to cross and that there could be a lesson to learn from it. I remember reading a HONY post on Facebook not too long ago and it was about a lady that discussed many of the bizarre “coincidences” she had with a man that she met and they both believed that it must have been destiny. They were attracted to one another too and decided to be together, but the sad part was that not too long after they were together, the man passed away. Many of the commenters underneath the post shared several similar stories of how they had many “coincidences” with the one they ended up marrying.

It was nice to read through the comments, because it made me realize that I’m not the only one that deals with “coincidences” between people or particular situations; however, there were a couple of commenters that also stated that they had many “coincidences” with the person that they thought was “the one”, but they eventually ended up splitting apart and were left with a heartache. Many of the replies to those individuals was that it must have been a lesson and a step towards something even better. So, as one can see, sometimes “coincidences” between two people don’t always mean that they will be together forever.

With that said, the concept of the song can also tie in with the topic on soulmates, and as many of us are aware of, soulmates can appear in many forms and can even be friends that share “coincidences” with one another. For example, there have been “coincidences” between my friends and I, including a friend that I made near the end of 2014. Some of these “coincidences” include where we’ve lived before and having similar interests. Generally, when people share a similar background or interest, or have a similar personality, they tend to get along well . Although it would be too early to call her a soulmate, some of the similarities we’ve come across are interesting, and there have been people that have even called us sisters. xD

All in all, if there’s one thing that caught my attention the most in Zico‘s MV is that we share almost the same philosophy on destiny. This is when he sings the lines, “I believe in destiny. Horoscopes or tarot cards, I don’t do relationships based in the stars.” I believe in destiny and not horoscopes or tarot cards. There are people out there that take horoscopes and fortune telling very seriously and aren’t aware that they are often mixed with half-truth and half-lies. One has to have a strong faith to not rely on them. We may sometimes be driven out of curiosity to know what our future holds, but some things are better off knowing only when the time comes.


“Living with Determination”


Another nice track from the video game, Persona 3, called Living with Determination!

Last week, I started watching a walkthrough for Persona 4 (not 3), and it’s addicting. It’s also incredibly long, and I don’t think that I’ll have the time to complete it anytime soon, so I spoiled the story for myself. =P You can say that I’m one of those individuals that would flip to the last page in a book and read what the ending is out of curiosity. Not always, but most of the times. Persona 4 involves a lot of suspense and you have to find out who the culprit is behind the mysterious deaths of two ladies that were featured at the start of the game. I know who it is now that I’ve read the spoilers. =P Wasn’t expecting it to be one of the “supporting” characters, but that’s what makes the story more interesting.

Persona 4 also has a thought-provoking theme of how people often have another side to their thoughts and feelings that they usually suppress or keep quiet about and find hard to accept. In the game, the characters encounter that side of them and show how they deal and overcome that. I’m guessing that Persona 3 touches more on the topic of living life to the fullest and the topic of death, which is reflected in its music.

P.S. I’ve been reading about the spread of the Zika virus from mosquitoes in Brazil lately. The Zika virus affects the children of pregnant woman, and when the child is born, the child’s head isn’t shaped normally and the child may never be able to fully develop or grow up like a normal individual. What’s strange is that in June 2015, there was news about the release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in Brazil to combat dengue, and it was around the same area that the Zika virus has emerged from. The recent news about the Zika virus in Brazil immediately made my mind jump back to the time I read about GM mosquitoes, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s any correlation between the two. There were concerns about GM mosquitoes back when they were introduced as well, such as how it could disrupt the environment and even pose a health risk in humans, which you can read about here.

What’s even more bizarre is that response to this virus has been, “Don’t have babies.” Sounds like it fits very well with an old-age conspiracy of how the elitists want to depopulate the world (I’m not quick to dismiss conspiracy “theories” that I’ve heard of. A lot of them have turned out right). Ever wonder why a deadly disease or virus pops up every two years, is hyped up in the media, and then all of a sudden disappears and the process repeats with the next virus that emerges? That pattern should be enough to have one questioning what’s going on. Think like the characters in the game Persona 4 that notice a strange pattern in the mystery they have to solve!


4 Years of WordPress!

The Sunrise by Gene Amole


The same can apply to the moon, but it will need to have the sun to look at it, so that it can reflect its light. =P

Today, marks the 4th anniversary of my blog here on WordPress and on tumblr! I’m still having a hard time believing that it has been 4 years already. If I think of my life and what I was doing 4 years ago, it almost feels like it happened way long ago.

Initially compelled to blog and share my thoughts ever since S.M. Entertainment’s group EXO was set to debut, the content on my blog, without a doubt, has changed throughout the years to the point that, along with the change in content, also came a change in the audience.

It’s a lot more “quiet” now in comparison to before, but I knew that this would happen the moment I quit being a fan of EXO’s Kris. For 2 years, I was referred to as “the Kris blogger” as I enthusiastically blogged about the star, who is now a mainstream Chinese actor that will soon pave his way into Hollywood, and it’s a title that I suppose belongs in the past. A lot has happened since then, and reading my old posts gets me teary-eyed and brings back memories of a time long gone, but one has to eventually move on. All I know is that I’ve learned a lot.

What’s different compared to last time, though, is that I’ve chosen not to talk too much about my dreams. After all, some things are better off left unsaid, even dreams.

P.S. There’s currently a planetary alignment of 5 planets, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter that started on January 20th and will last until February 20th this year. Haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet. xD


Each Warrior of the Light

Each Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho


Each Warrior of the Light contains within him the spark of God. His destiny is to be with other Warriors, but sometimes he will need to practice the art of the sword alone; this is why, when he is apart from his companions, he behaves like a star.

He lights up his allotted part of the Universe and tries to point out galaxies and worlds to all those who gaze up at the sky.

The Warrior’s persistence will soon be rewarded. Gradually, other Warriors approach, and they join together to form constellations, each with their own symbols and mysteries. —Paulo Coelho


Belated Happy New Year


Belated Happy New Year!

I placed this soundtrack here because it sounds both happy and sad just like how a year consists of both good and the not-so-good, and also because it’s music from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, which tends to be very moving. I like 2:45 to the end the most (and reading the comments underneath the video on YouTube =P).

It’s surprising to know that lots of people are traveling to Japan this year. Everywhere I go in Sydney, people are talking about Japan. It’s amusing, because even on the Internet it seems like people have been discussing about traveling to Japan or even moving there, including the founders of Eat Your Kimchi.

Japan’s pop music may have died down a little international-wise in comparison to K-Pop, but it’s one East Asian country that has so much to see and do, hospitality that’s at another level, attention to detail in everything, and is a fusion of the old and modern, which captivates people to the point that they want to visit the country again. Furthermore, some of us all have a bit of Japan in our lives, especially if we’ve grown up watching anime, reading manga, playing video games, watching J-dramas, etc.

If I recall, my first exposure to Japan was through Sailor Moon at the age of 4. The picture of the streets of Azabu-Juban, the game center (read that it was turned into McDonald’s in real), and the Tokyo Tower in the animation always captured my attention. So had the picture of the Tokyo Tower and cherry blossoms in Cardcaptor Sakura, and the traditional streets and outfits of Soul Society in Bleach. Then it was the dramas, including the Korean ones that have been based on popular manga. Watching them cheered me up back in my undergrad. days when I had some time for myself after studying in my dorm room. Japan has a great art in storytelling, creating atmosphere and evoking emotions, so it’s no surprise why I’ve always felt some sort of connection to what I’ve grown up with.

These days, Japan has taken the initiative to make things Muslim-friendly – from prayer rooms at malls to Halal food! I was so so surprised to know this, so there’s absolutely no excuse for one to not go! Although I can survive on veggies and seafood when eating out, it’s great to know that one can have Halal ramen (normally, ramen in Japan is made of pork broth) and enjoy Japanese cuisine to its fullest. It seems like Japan is at a completely different level in customer service; however, I’m also away that every country in the world has its plus points and negative points, and Japan is no exception.

There was a time when I wanted to visit China again, more-so in 2012, but not to a large extent at the moment. I know that the country isn’t the same when I had last visited back in 2006. China has changed at a rapid pace with the country’s economic growth post-2008 and it’s great that it’s becoming more global, but I find that China’s beauty is in its past and its stories, and it’s sad how there are historic neighborhoods being demolished for tall buildings in some of the big cities. I’m more interested in seeing the natural surroundings and history than I am in the modern when it comes to China. Hong Kong is an exception, because it has always been regarded as modern and that’s the way I initially saw it.

I’ve never felt so “foreign”, alien, and homesick until I went to Mainland China, though. The language barrier made it hard to connect, and don’t get me started on the dreadful feeling of being lost there as a young girl (and that too twice on two separate trips!) and once without a cellphone! Cellphones were around at that time, but I wasn’t allowed one at that age (I brought it up when I got lost the second time and said, “See…this is why one should have a cellphone!). These days, we have cellphones and access to the Internet with them to stay in touch and navigate our way around… but imagine back then with none of that!

Nevertheless, after Japan, I’m interested in seeing South Korea, IA. It’s because I have friends, including those from high school, living in Seoul, and I enjoy cafe-hopping along with sightseeing. It looks like a great place to shop too with lots of local brands that are different from what one would fine elsewhere. We’ll just have to see when that happens. =P

Other than that, I’m aware that I haven’t posted a lot on my blog last year. I’ve been busy trying to tick off things on my bucket list, and usually that takes planning. I managed to see one of the cat cafes here as well as visit the Hello Kitty Diner last year! Maybe I’ll try updating here whenever I feel compelled to share my thoughts, IA (I still don’t trust the entertainment industry =P). Hope everyone had a great New Year!


Christmas “Coincidence”


Episode 35 of Cardcaptor Sakura

Last night, I was watching Cardcaptor Sakura on my smartphone and “coincidentally” near 11:30 at night, I finished watching Episode 34 and got to see the preview of Episode 35, which was about Christmas! I felt goosebumps when I saw the preview. Here I was re-watching Cardcaptor Sakura throughout the week and on the day of Christmas, I “coincidentally” reached up to an episode centered around Christmas! xD I had only 30 minutes to finish watching Episode 35. It was the last episode for the day before the clock struck 12! The only difference is that there was a full moon on Christmas yesterday, while in Cardcaptor Sakura a full moon appeared in the episode prior to the one featuring Christmas.

It has been a while since I’ve encountered what one may call a “coincidence”, but now that I’ve encountered one, I feel compelled to type about it. As you may already know, I don’t really believe in “coincidences”. For me, most things happen for a reason, even though I think that a few things that come my way are things that I would be rather happy without. If only we had the ability to select what’s good and stay away from what’s not, life would be easier.

As for Cardcaptor Sakura, so far I know why Sakura and Li are attracted towards Yukito. It’s because of his magical powers. Can’t believe that there were subtle hints about Yukito being Yue as the episodes progressed as well! xD The teacher Ms. Mizuki, who appears to have magical powers and knowledge of the Clow Cards, makes it a little obvious, because when she seeks Sakura with Yukito, she becomes slightly concerned for a while and it can be seen from her facial expressions alone. She also tells Sakura to be careful when there’s a full moon, which is when Yukito‘s powers seem to emerge.

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