In an episode of YouTube‘s new K-Pop documentary series, K-Pop Evolution, first-generation idol Tony An of H.O.T. recalled the time the company used their blood to create merchandise.
Given that H.O.T. is widely considered to be the first K-Pop idol group in history, it’s no surprise that Tony An credits Lee Soo Man as a trailblazer. “He tends to challenge some things that other people think are too risky,” the first-generation idol explained. However, one of the most “exceptional” ideas Lee Soo Man ever came up with, in Tony’s opinion, was H.O.T.’s “DNA” necklaces.
Lee Soo Man is so brilliant in terms of business. But the most exceptional thing was the DNA necklace.
— Tony An
It seems like typical merchandise items like t-shirts and keyrings just weren’t enough for SM Entertainment back then. Instead, the company decided to produce a “DNA & PROTEIN” merchandise set with a very unusual piece of jewelry inside—a necklace literally filled with DNA.
And the way they got that DNA is even more shocking. According to Tony An, the company asked the members to give blood and provide hair from all over their bodies so they could extract the DNA from them. Back then, Tony says the members didn’t even know what DNA was.
I didn’t even know you could sell such things.
— Tony An
Although the concept is definitely shocking, it wasn’t quite as nefarious as it sounds at first: the members’ blood and hair weren’t directly deposited into the necklaces. During the premiere episode of EXO‘s music video reality series, EXO 90:2014, Kangta explained that SM Entertainment sent the samples to scientists who then extracted the members’ DNA from them. Then, they used that data to reconstruct the shape of the DNA.
The DNA shapes were then embossed into the necklace itself, so no biological matter was included with the jewelry. Despite that, many of today’s fans have called the idea creepy and unsettling.