Were Korean Netizens Correct To Believe Red Velvet In ‘Descendants Of The Sun’ Was SM Entertainment Product Placement?

When it comes to K-dramas so far this year, Descendants of the Sun is surely the best of the best. Everything about the series, including the superb acting by the cast, intricate plot with equal parts melodramatic suspense and comedy, and the execution of the plot through top-notch direction, just made it a joy to watch. Maybe that’s why Descendants of the Sun has accumulated more than 40 percent viewership for certain scenes, an accomplishment last achieved back in 2012 with The Moon Embracing The Sun.

Just recently, Descendants of the Sun concluded, airing its penultimate episode and finale. Both were highly-anticipated among the K-drama community, especially those who kept up with the popular series since its initial airing back on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. However, there is one scene that is causing a bit of an online war among Korean netizens, and it has to do with Red Velvet and their performance. The popular K-pop group and their agency, SM Entertainment, have been accused of blatant product placement. Are Korean netizens’ criticisms correct?

Red Velvet made their appearance in the finale of Descendants of the Sun, as reported by Soompi. In it, the girls of the popular K-pop group — Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy, and Yeri — put on a performance to boost the morale of the soldiers by performing their hit song, “Dumb Dumb.” Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki) and Seo Dae Young (Jin Goo) show they are devoted fans to them when Si Jin goes as far as carrying a sign that says “Red Velvet over my girlfriend.”

The performance by Red Velvet was one of the happier, more bubbly scenes in Descendants of the Sun, a drama loaded with so much suspense caused by earthquakes, international firestorms, terrorism, and many other causes. However, some Korean netizens have accused SM Entertainment of blatant product placement. According to AllKpop, the Korean netizens criticized its randomness and that it was unnecessary. They even claim the reason why Red Velvet was able to make an appearance is through the fact that Onew, a member of SHINee, which is another K-pop group signed under SM Entertainment, is playing the role of Lee Chi Hoon in the series.

Is Red Velvet’s appearance in Descendants of the Sun truly product placement by SM Entertainment? The answer is actually both yes and no, depending on how one were to look at it. Factors that support Red Velvet’s inclusion as product placement can go under the fact that SM Entertainment is grooming the young K-pop group to replace Girls’ Generation, a group that is still popular among the K-pop community but is getting up in age. Also given the fact that Red Velvet’s latest song, “One Of These Nights,” isn’t doing as well as their past songs despite it being a good song, their inclusion in Descendants of the Sun can be seen as a reminder of why they were voted the best rookie K-pop group of 2015.

FNC Entertainment
If the producers of “Descendants of the Sun” wanted to feature the most popular K-pop group as voted by the military, they would have featured AOA, not Red Velvet. [Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]
On the other hand, Red Velvet’s inclusion may technically not be product placement if the production wanted to be authentic and feature a K-pop group considered extremely popular among military men. Red Velvet is voted as the No. 2 K-pop group to be favored among them. The number one group, AOA, were in the midst of individual and subgroup projects, which would have made it difficult for them to come back together to film a cameo, even for Descendants of the Sun.

Despite what Korean netizens may think, Descendants of the Sun is officially concluded, earning an overall viewership percentage of about 28 percent. This means anyone who hasn’t seen the series should if they can. Though not on television anymore, Descendants of the Sun can be viewed for free, with ads, on both Viki and DramaFever, depending on region.

[Image via SM Entertainment/Red Velvet Promotions for The Red]

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