Boy band EXO has twelve boys: six of them are Korean speakers based in Seoul, and six are Mandarin speakers who live in China. The two groups release songs at the same time in both countries in different languages. They are as much a franchise as they are a band.
The company behind EXO is SM Entertainment. Lee Soo-Man, its founder and the grand mogul of the K-Pop system, described K-Pop as 'cultural technology'. His vision for this cultural technology includes total control over his artists, who live in compounds owned by their record companies. Agencies recruit children from age 12, and train them intensively for up to seven years: school during the day, singing and choreography every night, with extensive media coaching. The young stars make no creative decisions, and almost all aspects of their music and public image are determined by their companies.
Some agencies forbid their trainees to have romantic relationships and require them to be supervised whenever they are out in public. There is no pretence that these idols have 'creative control' of their art. The focus instead is on the high production values of their performances and videos.