Dare I say, NewJeans is the girl group we have all been waiting for.
The new girl group shocked the internet when they went against the usual promotion tactics and dropped their debut song “Attention” without any teasers. NewJeans captivated their audience with their fresh youthful concept and was praised for bringing something new to the table. “Attention” and their subsequent releases “Hype Boy”, “Cookie” (albeit with some controversy) and “Hurt” were all big hits.
When NewJeans released “Ditto”, I didn’t pay much attention to it until an edit of the MV popped up on my TikTok feed. Intrigued by the use of film throughout the MV, I decided to check out “Ditto” Side A and B.
“Ditto” was Director Shin Woo-seok’s first official MV work. In an interview with Melon Magazine, he revealed that he wanted to break away from the standardised framework that most MVs seem to follow. He also shared how he drew on his personal experience to direct the bittersweet narrative that is akin to cheering for a favourite football team.
Director Shin Woo-seok created a company with a unique name, "Dolphiners”, and became a famous director in the advertising industry. After“Ditto”, he worked on NewJeans’ “OMG” as well.
Side A: Hope
As the sixth member of their friend group, Ban Hee-soo follows the five members of NewJeans around school with her camcorder. When her camcorder moves to follow her line of sight and captures a mysterious guy from her school, she quickly focuses it back to the five girls.
Actor Choi Hyun-wook from Racket Boys, Twenty-Five, Twenty-One and most recently, Weak Hero Class 1.
From Hee-soo’s point of view, we see the five of them always smiling and dancing. They decorate her arm cast with loving messages, explore her room and fall asleep in each others’ embrace on a couch. And when the six of them have to go home after school during a heavy downpour, Hee-soo does not hesitate to walk in the rain with them even though she has her own umbrella.
However, as the video ends, Hee-soo finds herself in dream-like state standing in a field of endless snow where she meets a deer who stares straight back at her. After, she wakes up to find herself all alone on the same couch with an empty arm cast. As the track fades into the background, it is revealed that Hee-soo had not been following or recording anyone at all, and had even walked in the pouring rain all alone.
Actress Park Ji-hu from Netflix’s hit zombie thriller All of Us Are Dead.
Side B: Despair
A shaky recording of the five girls running down the hallway and dancing in the classroom constantly glitches to show the same venues without the girls – the hallway is empty and Hee-soo’s classmates look confused as to who she is smiling at. Hee-soo’s smile behind her camcorder starts to fade, and when the five girls try to comfort her, Hee-soo breaks away from them after making eye contact with the same guy she was previously distracted by.
As she recalls her previous encounters with the guy and sees him walking into school, she focuses it on him. And when she sees the five girls dance happily as they always had in a parking lot at night without her, she watches from afar and does not approach them. The next day at school, she destroys her camcorder by dropping it from a great height, shattering it into pieces. Ever since then, Hee-soo sits alone in her room and walks in the rain alone with her umbrella. The deer appears again, but turns to leave.
Back to the present, adult Hee-soo smiles as she recalls her fond memories. The five girls burst into the room again and tackle one another on the couch, exclaiming that “It’s been forever!”
In his “NewJeans Ditto Will Change How You See K-pop Forever” that has an impressive 914k views, Youtuber Hyeautiful explains how Hee-soo represents K-pop fans, NewJeans represent K-pop idols, and the guy Hee-soo was interested in represents her actual reality.
Ban Hee-soo sounds like the name of NewJeans’ fandom “Bunnies” and her camcorder represents the screen of our phones. As an easter egg, there is even a YouTube channel named “Ban Hee-soo” featuring her camcorder recordings that align with the MV’s narrative — she records and uploads the moments she has with the NewJeans girls in efforts to remember them forever.
Hee-soo's interactions with the girls mimics the way K-pop fans can meet their favourite idols up close and personal during fan meetings or gatherings outside show venues. Standing right in front of them and breathing the same air is an incredible dream come true and this elicits a fantasy that their idols are within their arm’s reach.
We see Hee-soo’s illusion of the girls crumble when the guy catches her crying alone. Humiliated, Hee-soo runs away and tries to escape him – her reality. She is about to approach the girls again and finds them performing happily as they always had, but this time without her. As she glances at her unblemished white cast, a symbol of physical or emotional hurt that she had hoped the girls would alleviate, she finally acknowledges there will always be a physical and emotional distance between them. This distance does not change no matter how she may attempt to relate to their burdens like walking in the rain with them instead of using her own umbrella to keep dry.
The deer symbolises the process of Hee-soo’s recovery and self-discovery. It first appeared in what seems to be her dream or subconscious where she stood all alone in a massive endless snowfield that seemed to represent the fantastical yet lonely world of idol chasing. The second time the deer visits Hee-soo, it stands in her familiar school hallway. After assessing her current state and realising that she has decided to return to her real world, the deer finally turns around a corner to leave. The deer may also represent her guardian spirit who came to guide her in the correct direction to lead a fulfilling life.
Ultimately, K-pop idols and their legacy will live on forever. The first and second generations of K-pop paved the way for the third, and the third continues to pave the way for the fourth. That is why Hee-soo smiles fondly upon her memories with them because of the joy the girls brought her when she needed it most. They gave her the strength she needed to overcome her troubles and she does not regret her time supporting them in their prime.
Overall, I believe that “Ditto” wishes to convey how a fan’s devotion to K-pop can become an unhealthy coping mechanism if left unchecked. By seeking refuge in the K-pop world, obsessive fans may choose to forego their own reality if they can live in a better one. We see this in the persistence of parasocial relationships in the K-pop industry.
In South Korean culture, a sasaeng fan, or simply a sasaeng, refers to an overly passionate fan who engages in activities like stalking or other intrusive behaviors that violate the privacy of Korean idols, drama actors, or other prominent public figures. Many K-pop idols like EXO’s Sehun have come forth to share about the harrassment they have received from these sasaeng fans.
EXO’s Sehun reveals he gets around 100 calls a day from sasaengs.
Following the trend of K-pop idols having more autonomy over their craft, I am excited to see how the K-pop industry will continue to evolve as newer groups take on the responsibility to make a name for themselves. Besides lyrics and dance choreography, I hope that directing and storytelling are other creative opportunities more K-pop groups will delve into.