Seoul (AFP) - The company that pioneered South Korea's all-conquering K-pop industry unveiled its new boy-band concept on Wednesday -- a group with limitless members, singing in multiple languages and based in cities from Asia to Latin America.
SM Entertainment, which handles some of the biggest names in K-pop, including Super Junior and Girls' Generation, said the new band represented the final incarnation of the "Korean wave" that began with the export of Korean TV dramas and pop music in the late 1990s.
"This is the true localisation of K-pop," SM Entertainment founder Lee Soo-Man said at a launch in Seoul.
The group, or rather collection of sub-groups, will go under the umbrella title of NCT, which stands for Neo Culture Technology -- a name that some fans quickly took to ridiculing on social networks.
"Sounds like a tech company," tweeted one K-pop aficionado, while another said NCT was an acronym better suited for a national examination.
Lee said the group already had 40 members, of which a handful would form an initial unit that will start performing in Seoul and Japan in the next few months.
"New members will be freely recruited with no limits on the number," Lee said.
Other NTC incarnations will later be unveiled in major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai in the second half of the year, followed by "units" in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
As well as singing the same songs in different languages, they will produce content especially tailored for their particular markets.
"This is the last stage of the Korean wave," Lee declared, saying the idea went beyond "simply exporting K-pop products" to creating join ventures with local companies.
Some industry observers noted that the NTC concept bore striking similarities to the hugely popular Japanese girl band AKB48 that has been around for more than 10 years.
Originally made up of 48 members, but now numbering more than 130, AKB48 is split into several teams who can perform simultaneously in several places.