HYBE entered the NFT business after JYP and fans’ mixed reactions

As NFT is the next target of large agencies, production companies, and broadcasters to provide artists’ IP-based products, criticism has grown that it is considered to be “commercializing by increasing the number of entertainment branches.”

Bang Si-hyuk (left), chairman of the board of directors of HYBE, announced his entry into the NFT business at a corporate briefing on November 4th. /Photos by HYBE

As the marketability of Non-fungible tokens (NFT) products using blockchain is drawing attention, the popular culture field is also rushing into the NFT market. Individual artists and K-pop entertainment agencies, as well as animation and drama producers, have set up separate businesses to release products based on artists and content’s intellectual property (IP). Expectations are high that the scarcity of NFT’s “originality” will open a new market in a digital world where there is no real thing, while voices of opposition rise about the trend to commercialize the smallest details.

According to related sources on November 17th, HYBE recently made the most noticeable move related to NFT in the field of popular culture by declaring their partnership with Dunamu, a blockchain company, through a corporate briefing earlier this month. Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of the HYBE’s board of directors, explained their visions at the time, saying, “We not only permanently own MDs (goods) such as photo cards, but also specify the ways to collect, exchange, and display them on fan community platforms with Dunamu.”

Pink Pong Baby Shark’s NFT artwork to be released next month. / Photo by Smart Study

In July, JYP also decided to establish a new joint venture with Dunamu to establish the NFT platform business and has decided to proceed with the investment. In the case of SM, no visible movement has yet been seen. However, executive producer Lee Soo-man recently made headlines for showing his interest in NFT at a blockchain conference abroad. He referred to NFT as a blockchain that gives a “Lifetime Value” and emphasized, “All contents that form the Metabus worldview or story will be linked to NFT”. CUBE Entertainment has also decided to issue NFTs using their artists’ IP through a new joint venture and develop a metabus game based on this.

The agencies that have entered the powerful KPOP idol fandom are not the only ones to have paid attention to the NFT market. In fact, almost all companies with competitive content seem to be interested in the new trend called NFT. Smart Study, the production company of “Pinkfong’s Baby Shark” on Youtube, joined hands with NFT Marketplace “Makers Place” and announced their plans to release NFT “Baby Shark Collection: Number One,” which combines baby shark characters and sound sources next month. The drama production company Studio Dragon has already released the NFT of tvN’s drama “Hotel Del Luna“. Meanwhile, AStory, the creator of “Kingdom” and “Jirisan“, will also introduce their NFT projects within this year.

NFT’s sales screen showing the “Muyaho” moment on the “Infinite Challenge” broadcast. It was sold for 9.5 million won at an auction./ Capture photo of the website “Archive by MBC”

Meanwhile, MBC entered this business in July for the first time among Korean broadcasters by releasing 11 NFTs that contain meaningful scenes from their broadcasts in the past, including the first colored broadcasts of MBC’s Newsdesk. The NFT product containing the “Muyaho” episode of “Infinite Challenge” aired in March 2010, was auctioned off for 9.5 million won.

However, as interest in NFT’s marketability increases, concerns and opposition to countereactions are also growing. In particular, it is notable that the issue of NFT products is centered on the fandom, which can be said to be the artistic NFT’s target purchasing group. BTS’s fans have been protesting with hashtags such as “#BoycottHybeNFT” and “#ARMYsAgainstNFT” on Twitter and other sites since November 5th, the day after HYBE announced its entry into the NFT business. Instead of focusing on artists’ own contents such as music or performances, they intend to reject commercialization by increasing the number of BTS-related products. ARMYs are also posting a series of proof shots that they have canceled pre-orders for BTS’s Season’s Greetings – a year-end and New Year fan service.


Some oppose the negative impact of NFT production on the environment. Citing a foreign media outlet’s article that the amount of carbon emitted when making NFTs is equivalent to driving 500 miles (about 804 kilometers) in a typical American gasoline-powered car, BTS’s fans argue that it contradicts the recent mention of climate change issues by BTS members in a speech at the United Nations.

Choi Kwang-ho, secretary general of the Korea Music Contents Association, said, “There may be negative public opinion and complaints from fans about the excessive commercialization of K-pop singers’ private lives. The side effects of indiscriminate monetization are a problem that can be considered.”


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