20150102_seoulbeats_pureboyThe members of a rookie group by the name of PureBoy  were recently seen protesting in the streets for the reunification of DBSK as five members. Their protest seems to have happily coincided with the release of their single “White Snow”, which was uploaded onto their official YouTube channel the very next day.

On December 22, the group took to the crowd-packed streets of Myungdong, one of Seoul’s busiest shopping districts filled with tourists and locals alike. They bore picket signs that read “We want to see DBSK on stage as five members once more,” and picketed in shifts lasting for six hours each. Members and officials from their company also gave media statements, citing DBSK’s tremendous international success as their motivation for wishing to see DBSK united as five members once again — without DBSK to break into international markets, current generations of K-pop idols would not see the international success they see today.

Rapper Ha-young is a Korean-American from Los Angeles and said that “within the Korean-American community, DBSK was idolized and was a source for all of our pride… Even in the States, DBSK as five was the real King of K-pop and was the best of the best.” Their entertainment company, IT Entertainment, also issued statements. Their headquarters director Go Chul said that “They made me happy and proud to be called Korean,” and even their co-CEO Park Sang-Hyun said that “millions of Koreans and billions of fans around the world want to see them on stage as five members once again… In order for South Korea as a national brand to shine and be great once again, I wish that the members from the two companies could come together and reunite.”

20120624_seoulbeats_dbsk_coverAnd these sentiments are not wrong – DBSK certainly paved the way for many artists after them. They introduced many people to Hallyu and led them to discover other facets of Korean pop entertainment as well. And they’re not the only ones to have realized this — in 2013, the owner of a restaurant in Myungdong embarked on a very similar protest in Myungdong’s streets. According to his experience and his resesarch, the DBSK’s popularity brought business to Myungdong in the form of tourists, who would eat at restaurants and contribute to the local economy. With their seperation, he said many businesses in the area apparently noticed a drop in revenue.

Quite serendipitiously, PureBoy decided to release their latest single “White Snow” on their YouTube account on the next day after their protest in Myungdong. As a rookie group that debuted in April of 2014 (to almost no fanfare), and with a grand total of three released songs as of writing, is Pure Boy’s protest an unorthodox creative attempt at marketing themselves?


The oversaturation of the market is a definite issue in the K-pop scene of today. Over 100 new groups debuted in 2014 alone; how many of them has the average Korean student or international K-pop fan even heard of, let alone enjoy enough to buy an album or stream their music?

What we see in the market today is typical of a period immediately following an economic boom. With the sudden, meteoric rise of K-pop both in Korea and abroad, deciding to produce a K-pop group seems like a viable and fruitful investment. K-pop is being exported all around the world, and investors see a group as a possible route to a high return. After a large investment in training, housing, feeding, and promoting a group, investors could expect high kickbacks if the group succeeds commercially, as the return on your investment relies not on a high interest rate or market forces but on the popularity and success of the group.

Here lies the problem as well; if the group fails, the investor loses out, and they lose out big time. They have sunk considerable amounts of capital into a venture that will give no return on that investment; all the money spent feeding them and training them has gone to waste.

20120610_seoulbeats_tvxqThis brings us back to PureBoy – a year after debut and undoubtedly years after initial scouting and training, their reception has been less than lukewarm. This leads the executives of their company to realize their failing investment, and attempt to bring about any publicity, any publicity at all, to get some shred of popularity amongst their target market.

DBSK is the perfect target for their plan; by riding on the coattails of DBSK’s popularity, they definitely bring attention to their own group. And while during their protests they did not once mention that they have a new single coming out, the timing of the events leads one to believe that the company had carefully planned the entire affair. By paying respect to the almost untouchable gods of Korean entertainment, they automatically gain the respect of the public; who would dare question the totality of DBSK’s popularity in their glory days as five members?

20140719_seoulbeats_jyjIndeed, their “protest” was a very safe and non-controversial topic; while there are a few fans who stand strictly on either side of the split and oppose reunion, DBSK remains iconic for and well-liked by the majority of casual K-pop fans, both in Korea and abroad. DBSK reunification is something that many fans take as a normative good, and unquestioningly accept the concept as something to be desired and hoped for. By aligning themselves under this safe issue, PureBoy manages to protest for something while not really protesting for anything substantial at all.

In fact, they managed to get themselves into headlines, something that they had be unable to do before through their songs alone. Staging the protest on the same day as their newest song release is a definite marketing strategy — creative, unique, but ultimately distracting from what should ostensibly be the main product of the group, which is their music itself. Instead, they’ve decided to use the popularity of one of the most well-known names in Korean entertainment to draw attention to themselves. After all, they said themselves that they owe a lot of their popularity to their DBSK-sunbaenims.

Readers, what do you think of this “creative” marketing?

(Nate, Naver, NaverMusic. Images via News 1, IT Entertainment, SM Entertainment, CJES Entertainment.)