Aespa member Ningning


  • Ningning recently went viral after AI-generated photos of her as Barbie circulated online
  • Some fans gushed over her stunning visuals; others said the photos looked "weird"
  • The K-pop community recently discussed the dangers of AI technology

Artificial intelligence (AI)-generated photos of aespa member Ningning looking like a real-life Barbie went viral on social media, and the K-pop community shared mixed reactions to them.

Twitter account @viraltakes recently uploaded a collage of the AI-generated photo of the 20-year-old K-pop idol, first shared by fan account @yizhuo1st early Sunday.

In the snaps, Ningning rocked various pink-colored outfits, and fans noticed that she had an uncanny resemblance to the iconic fashion doll. But while some praised the singer's beauty, others found the photos "weird."

"She really is Barbie in real life," one user said, attaching a real photo of Ningning wearing a pink top.

Another commented, "Those Barbie looks really [suit] her well [for real, oh my gosh]."

"Very pretty, but I'm still not behind [AI] edits of real [people] or any [people] at that fact... it's so weird to me like [I don't know]," a third user opined.

"I need Mattel to hit aespa up and make [them] a whole line of Barbie dolls....imagine this pic but Barbie dolls...," a fourth user suggested, adding a complete group photo of aespa.

"Nothing against her, but I don't think her fans should celebrate this kind of accuracy regarding AI-generated images of her, viral or not. If AI can generate her as this, imagine what else it can do, given a messed up person's prompt," a fifth user observed.

Another user wrote, "[Asian-coded] Barbie we love."

"AI art still scares me, but this is so good," a seventh user said.

"She literally looks like Barbie," an eighth user added.

Ningning, Karina, Winter and Giselle debuted under SM Entertainment in 2020 and became the first K-pop group to have AI avatars incorporated into most of their songs and music videos. Each member has a virtual counterpart, and their concept revolves around the existence of two worlds: virtual and reality.

At debut, the unique concept caught the attention of the K-pop community as it was fairly new.

But now, with the rise of AI technology, it appears that there are some fans who think that using it on other K-pop idols is "unsettling" and causes confusion, according to an online forum started by Reddit user @kiruke.

"I probably sound so paranoid for saying this [laugh out loud], but AI scares me. Like imagine seeing altered photos of yourself, and people think they're real??" one user shared.

Another commented, "All of this AI stuff is unsettling. All of the AI covers by Jungkook (and other idols) floating around feel weird to even engage with [in my opinion]. I actually ignore all of the videos that pop up on IG and YouTube because these AI voices are being used without the artist's permission, and their likeness is being used for views (and I'm assuming money from ad revenue as a result of views)," adding that companies and artists should start suing for improper and unauthorized use of their voices and images.

"Real people have been editing the faces of their favorite idols onto the bodies of other idols for years. And also claiming other idols' baby pictures for their idols. It's so frequent that it becomes the truth for some fans. So, I'm not at all surprised that AI is doing this. Maybe this will push fans to be more discerning [about] where they get their images from," a third user said.

Other users shared that they feared these AI-generated content would be used in "malicious ways," such as creating a fake idol scandal, using them in pornographic pictures and fabricating phone calls.