Aespa Expose The Brutal Reality Of Being A K-Pop Idol In Their Latest “SM Culture Universe” Update

The SMCU is fictitious, but aespa’s struggles are very real.

SM Entertainment recently released a new video that expands the storyline of the SM Culture Universe (the SMCU).

Here’s Your Friendly Guide To The SM Culture Universe Story And The “KWANGYA” Universe

Although the SMCU heavily focuses on aespa and their Aes (alter-egos), groups like SuperM and NCT2020 helped introduce some of SMCU’s major concepts like “KWANGYA” and “KOSMOS.”

NCT U’s “90’s Love”

From there, aespa started diving into the lore through their music videos. In their music videos, aespa constantly show off their relationship with their virtual avatars, who have even accompanied aespa on stage.

Since their debut, aespa have been battling the villain of the SMCU, called the “Black Mamba.”

“Black Mamba”

Fans believe their next music video, “Next Level,” was meant to show the members growing stronger for their next confrontation with the villain.

Winter, NingNing, Karina, and Giselle in “Next Level”

And they believe that the music video for “Savage” shows aespa’s confidence in finally defeating the “Black Mamba” since they have already weakened it.


With aespa gearing up for a comeback, titled Girls,, fans are curious how the SMCU storyline will continue. Their new track is set to release on July 8.

And in seeming preparation for the comeback, the new SMCU video gives further explanation of aespa’s role in the story. At the beginning of the video, aespa travel into the “KWANGYA” to figure out why the Ae are disappearing in the “REAL WORLD,” thanks to the help of Naevis.

| aespa/YouTube 

While exploring the “KWANGYA,” the members get on a train that Giselle feels apprehensive about after reading “Black Mamba” on the sign.

| aespa/YouTube 

And, sure enough, the members once again encounter the SMCU villain, who seemingly isolates the four, targeting them will specific scenarios like their insecurities and others’ criticisms.

| aespa/YouTube 

While the SMCU is a captivating story world, fans couldn’t help but notice that the Black Mamba’s targeted attacks are representative of struggles that all K-Pop idols face daily.

Karina is confronted with her own insecurities. Surrounded by mirrors and hearing phrases like “Karina is mature” and “I trust you, Karina,” Karina is likely being overwhelmed with the pressure of the expectations that others have for her.

| aespa/YouTube 

Karina’s Ae, controlled by the Black Mamba, even taunts her, suggesting that the Ae is “the perfect me that [Karina wants] to be.”

Karina: You… Who are you?

Karina’s Ae: Me? I am you and the perfect me that you want to be.

Karina: What does that mean?

Karina’s Ae: Karina, how long did you think I’d stay by your side? You uploaded data that you like on social media. And I was created with only your best qualities. I am the perfect version of you that you always wanted to be. Do you think you’ll conitnue to look the way you do when you get older? What will happen when you fall ill? You will change as time passes. But I will always be perfect.

| aespa/YouTube 

And while there are interesting implications that the Ae are created from aespa’s social media posts, highlighting the “best qualities” that they want to show as idols…

| aespa/YouTube 

Many fans also realize that the fear of constantly having to look perfect and not being able to meet fans’ expectations, is undoubtedly something that K-Pop idols have to struggle with.

| aespa/YouTube 

Similarly, Winter is surrounded by strangers gossiping about her and spreading malicious lies about her character.

Stranger: I heard she isn’t that nice.

Stranger: Really?

Stranger: I heard someone…

Stranger: Did you hear that?

Stranger: Don’t you think she doesn’t need to be there?

| aespa/YouTube 

There are always rumors and gossip surrounding public figures. Just like Winter in the SMCU, it must be terrifying for idols whose careers depend on public opinion to hear all the false gossip.

| aespa/YouTube 

The Black Mamba’s attack on Giselle further proves the hardships that K-Pop idols have to endure to pursue their passion, as Giselle is surrounded by cameras taking photos of her every move.

| aespa/YouTube 

Even as Giselle screams, the public surrounds her, grabbing at her ankles, showcasing the lack of privacy that K-Pop idols are allowed to have as they’re constantly being photographed.

| aespa/YouTube 

Unlike the rest of aespa, NingNing‘s scene seems almost cheerful at first, with cute emojis surrounding her, likely representing her fans’ love and support through social media.

| aespa/YouTube 

But those emojis quickly turn ugly, representing online trolls who leave hate comments, criticizing anything and everything about idols.

| aespa/YouTube 

NingNing covers her ears in a desperate attempt to block out the negative comments about her.

| aespa/YouTube 

While fans can look forward to what Girls will add to the SMCU storyline, where it seems like they will once again fight the “Black Mamba…”

| aespa/YouTube 

This closer look into the SMCU is a sad representation of all the struggles that K-Pop idols must endure daily to pursue their dreams.

You can watch the full video here.