Being a fan means you start to put interest and context around your loved one. VREX is a Korean startup wants to mingle fan power with AR technology to digitally connect fans with their loved stars.

K-pop is not just a cultural phenomena, it has both economic and social impacts. Lu Han, a member of EXO took a selfie in front of a mailbox on the Bund in Shanghai and posted on Weibo. That evening 20,000 EXO fans lined up and took selfies there. Fans of another member of EXO Yixing, put up a happy birthday message on a giant billboard in Time Square in New York.

“Fans travel to China and South Korea to experience K-pop, and they generate 6 billion in revenue. However, 88% of fans responded that they feel they are disconnected to their stars,” Rudy Lee, CEO and founder of VREX says.

There are more than 35 million K-pop fans worldwide, according to Korea Foundation’s global hanliu (韩流 or “Korean wave” in English) data from 2015. YG Entertainment‘s top band group Big Bang made revenue around 150 million USD in 2015 in concerts.

Rudy Lee, CEO and founder of VREX

Tons of content, but no context

As interaction rate on Instagram has plummeted by 40% globally in 2016, the demand for a much more immersive photo sharing experience has been growing.

“There are tons of photo content, and we go whipping through the photos on Instagram other apps, but there is no context that the fans can really relate to,” Rudy told me. “There is a lot of content, but less context.”

By combining content with context, VREX came up with an app called Rush (the Chinese version is called Tiele or 贴了) to connect fans with stars. When fans visit designated locations they can see floating AR messages from the stars, to which they respond by taking selfies with special K-pop stickers offered in the app. The company is currently offering stickers related to boy band BTS and EXO’s Zhang Yixing. Rush has also partnered with LOEN entertainment.

Previously, Rudy co-founded a co-production company that made music videos and commercials. Being a Big Bang fan himself and having worked with the Korean celebrities, he could easily feel and observe the influence they have in the fan community.

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 11.03.57 AM
From left to right: A user posts a selfie at a bookstore, asking her boyfriend to come and read the book she is holding; a group of Fiestar fans post a group photo of themselves with a sticker; Jackson Wang of GOT7 has overtaken the LED screen in a mall in Shanghai. (Image Credit: Tiele)

Rush is seeing traction strong from its users in China, South Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Taiwan, Pakistan, as well as many other countries outside Asia. Using special stickers inside Rush, K-pop fans can post love messages for their favorite stars including hashtags. Rush counts the hashtags and posts and creates a real-time K-pop ranking billboard on their website.

Every two weeks, the K-pop star who has claimed #1 on the Rush chart will have a fan-created video of them displayed on a massive LED screen on the 1st floor of the Henderson Metropolitan Mall in Shanghai. The first period, Zhang Yixing of EXO took the center stage, and now Jackson Wang of GOT7 has overtaken the EXO star on the LED screen.

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at