An NCT Primer: Everything You Need to Know

When you start to like a group, it’s natural to want to learn more about them, but if they have 18 members and four subunits it can prove more difficult than usual. Welcome to the world of NCT – an SM Entertainment-designed group with the innovative concept of rotating members and fluid boundaries.

My first encounter with NCT was simple enough. I was listening to a Kpop playlist online and happened to hear a couple of songs I liked. I quickly wrote down the name of the initial group, which was NCT 127, but when the second song came on I was surprised to see that the group was called NCT U. I was familiar with some Kpop groups with similar names, like 2AM and 2PM, but what were the odds of two groups deciding to use NCT?

Despite my confusion, I did not look deeper into the NCT conundrum until a friend of mine mentioned a group with 18 members that she had discovered. We realized that this super-group, NCT 127, and NCT U were all connected, but we weren’t sure how.

The journey to understanding was longer than I would like to admit, but in my defense, even popular variety show hosts like those on Weekly Idol have struggled to grasp the NCT concept. However, much like any new idea, once you do catch on you wonder why you found it so difficult in the first place.

Whether you are mildly curious about NCT or dying to know all about them, I have created a primer with all that you need to know so that you can bypass the confusion, join the inner circle, and simply enjoy this fantastic group and their music.

NCT 101: The Basics

NCT is a group formed of some of the top rookies from SM Entertainment. When they first debuted in April of 2016, they released a song called The 7th Sense as NCT U, which featured five members. Over the next two years, they began to build the NCT universe by putting out songs under various group names: NCT U, NCT 127, NCT DREAM, and NCT 2018. (I’ll explain each of these in more detail below).

As part of this process, they revealed more and more members as each person “debuted” and began to participate in some of their songs and projects. One of the core ideas behind NCT is flexibility, which means that NCT will continue to grow and change in the future. They do not have a set structure like most groups.

As of right now, there are 18 members; you can scroll through the images at the end of this post to learn more about each of them. Fans of NCT are called NCTzens, and their official color is lime green.

NCT 2018

Although this group was not introduced until January of this year, it is the easiest place to start. NCT 2018 is the super-group of NCT – it contains all of the current members – and any songs released under NCT 2018 include everyone who is active in NCT. Right now, that means 18 people, coinciding with the year (2018). SM released two “Yearbook” videos to reveal the members who are part of NCT in 2018, which you can watch if you are curious.

Because this group is tied to the year, we can assume that next year there will be an NCT 2019 that may include 19 members – or more! NCT 2019 will replace NCT 2018.


This is the most creative grouping by far, as NCT U is simply a name used for songs released by any combination of NCT members. For example, there is an NCT U song called Baby Don’t Stop that is sung by only Taeyong and Ten, while BOSS is an NCT U song by seven NCT members (and Ten is not one of them). NCT U allows for the ultimate flexibility – at any time, they can release a song of any style with the members that most suit that song.

The drawback of NCT U is that some members are featured much more frequently than others, leaving fans of those members wishing for content. Still, it is a genius way to achieve a high diversity of style that keeps the music fresh and exciting.

NCT 127

NCT 127 (pronounced one two seven, or 일 이 칠 in Korean) is a regional sub-group within NCT that promotes as a consistent team. The numbers 127 in their name are taken from the longitude of Seoul as they are considered a Seoul-based unit. Their first release featured seven NCT members but the group expanded to nine after that, and just this past week it was announced that Jungwoo would be joining the team as the tenth member for their comeback on October 12th – a full album titled “NCT#127 Regular-Irregular”.

The current members of NCT 127 are: Taeyong, Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Mark, and Haechan.


This unit requires a rather different entry ticket: you must be younger than 20 to be a member. NCT members who debut and fit this age category become part of NCT DREAM, while current DREAM members who pass the age limit are intended to move on.

Often, NCT DREAM will release songs with light and bubbly tones suited to their (presumably) young audience, although some of their more recent singles like GO are challenging this stereotype. They are a physical representation of the budding talent within NCT.

Currently, the members of NCT DREAM are: Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung.

NCT China and the Future of NCT

Considering how varied NCT already is – including how many foreign members they have – it should not be a surprise that they are planning to debut a new sub-group later this year, which is tentatively named NCT China. This will be the second regional unit behind NCT 127, whose promotions are focused on Korea. There are endless speculations and rumors about what NCT China will be like and whether there will be new members from outside of the current line-up, but most agree that it will include Kun, Lucas, Renjun, Chenle, and possibly Winwin.

NCT’s rising popularity has also brought another issue to the forefront: NCT DREAM’s graduation system. The eldest member and unofficial leader of the group, Canadian-born Mark, turned 20 this year, but was still a part of NCT DREAM’s recent comeback. SM has not yet said anything about him leaving the group, leaving fans to wonder if they are reconsidering the change in rotation. Some adamantly believe that SM will turn NCT DREAM into a fixed unit, while others hold that this will be Mark’s last comeback with DREAM and that he will be graduating soon.

No matter what happens, I can guarantee that NCT will bring new surprises and refreshing ideas to their future activities. With a comeback for NCT 127 on the horizon and NCT China set to arrive before 2019, fans of NCT have everything to look forward to.

Current NCT Members


Taeyong (left): the unofficial leader of NCT with a powerful stage presence; Taeil (right): a stellar vocalist and the oldest member of NCT


Kun (left): this caring member is also the best cook of the group; Johnny (right): originally from Chicago, he brings a blend of maturity and ironic humor


Yuta (left): NCT’s Japanese member, who is outstandingly athletic; Winwin (right): this photogenic member is beloved by his groupmates


Haechan (left): extremely mischievous, with a sunshine disposition; Doyoung (right): playful and sings high notes effortlessly


Mark (left): this Canadian member practices rap nonstop and is in every NCT unit; Ten (right): a beautiful dancer who has released his own solo singles


Jaemin (left): no one loves NCTzens more than this affectionate member; Jaehyun (right): fluent in English and the king of selcas (selfies)


Jeno (left): this charismatic member has a smile that captures hearts; Jungwoo (right): soft-spoken and quick to express his love for his members


Chenle (left): bright and bubbly, he has a dolphin-like laugh; Lucas (right): a “beagle” member, who is full of energy and enthusiasm


Renjun (left): creative and clever, he is fluent in Mandarin and Korean; Jisung (right): the maknae (youngest member) of NCT and a dancing machine

All photos courtesy of NCT’s official twitter accounts:
@NCTsmtown, @NCT_OFFICIAL_JP, @NCTsmtown_127, and @NCTsmtown_DREAM. 

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