K-Pop's Dreamcatcher Runs Seoul Mystery Code Hunt To Kick Off New Music Hype

Dreamcatcher officially began their path towards their soon-to-be released album with a unique marketing campaign.

K-Pop's Dreamcatcher Runs Seoul Mystery Code Hunt To Kick Off New Music Hype
Dreamcatcher snaps a group pic during "OOTD" music video filming. Source: Dream Catcher Company (Naver)

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One of the reasons I've stayed a Dreamcatcher fan over the years has been the intrigue they've created around their new music releases. Sure, you see plenty of great pre-comeback campaigns elsewhere in K-Popland, but I've always felt that, especially when in relation to their generational peers, that Dreamcatcher was fairly unique in this respect.

Carousel image with roman numerals and reflected numbers for Dreamcatcher's mystery code in 2021.
Mystery Code from July 2021 for "Summer Holiday". Source: hf_dreamcatcher (Instagram)

By creating puzzles and riddles to be solved through "Mystery Code" pictures, the level of engagement that the group has had with its faithful fanbase has been through the roof, and it's resulted in some of the best and most memorable lead-ups to releases that I can remember among the various K-Pop groups that I follow.

For example, the above Mystery Code from July 2021 revealed:

  • A concept attached to an amusement park (later seen in the MV trailer)
  • Red Roman numerals when matched to the letters in the alphabet spelled "Because" (later revealed to be the title track name, "BEcause")
  • Blue digital symbols that could be combined and mirrored to show the date of the album's release (2021.07.30)

Over the years the company and group have created some pretty creative Mystery Codes, but this past week, they added another element that made things even more interesting to kick off the road to their next album. Here's that, and everything else the group was up to, in the past week!

Dreamcatcher's "Yaja Time" subunit, consisting of Yoohyeon, Siyeon, and SuA, has been talking quite a bit about how they had a "comeback" of their own in store. The last time we saw a song cover from them was way back in 2020 with Seventeen's "Oh My!", so this has been four years in the making, and they didn't disappoint with a cover of RIIZE's "Love 119".

The subunit has always had a great concept of "role reversals", from the name itself (referring to the time when the hierarchical rules of age and formality are dropped) to the fact that the members possess roles in reverse age order (Yoohyeon as the youngest as Leader while SuA, the oldest, is the Maknae, or most junior) to the fact that they sing boy group rather than girl group songs (the other being their cover of WINNER's "REALLY REALLY"). It's always been fun for me to see their work as a result.

Speaking of work, Handong wrapped up another radio gig this past week with the final episode of Spoon Pick DJ for Spoon Taiwan. It's been a fun set of episodes for Handong, and with the impending comeback inbound, this seemed to be a great place to end things. The last episode discussed listeners' dreams and hopes and was just a nice casual chat with Handong, and even though some technical difficulty cut off the last part of Handong's goodbyes to fans, you could tell she really enjoyed this latest radio opportunity. Handong's crafted quite a nice radio resume for herself and hopefully this will lead to more down the road.

The impending comeback also has the Tiktok game being upped as well, with three posts in the same week making it to the official Tiktok account. Short and fun trends have always been a part of any K-Pop group's content here, so Dreamcatcher has always been at home making funny and memorable things. Everyone seems to (rightfully) talk about how plugged in and good Yoohyeon has been at selecting and making Tiktok videos, but don't sleep on the other members either, especially Handong, who's an underrated meme machine. Will we see the customary SuA and Yoohyeon short video next to herald the upcoming comeback? I feel like the chances are pretty good.

The combined Mystery Code image for Dreamcatcher's first comeback in 2024. Source: hf_dreamcatcher (Instagram)

Yet for all the impending signs that a comeback is coming, the Mystery Code has always been the main attraction, and that's exactly what dropped this past week - with a twist. Unlike previous Mystery Codes, which would show all the information at once, this one had, curiously, a set of numbers and longitude/latitude coordinates. In the vein of the Dreamcatcher ARG from last comeback, it seemed that we'd be seeing a more active marketing campaign.

Dreamcatcher fans quickly determined that the middle set of numbers matched train station numbers and exits, with the first set of coordinates leading to the first place. The collective coordinates formed a crown shape within Seoul, which was the iconic symbol around which last comeback's "OOTD" era coalesced. This time around, there would be an offline scavenger hunt, a journey that would, fans assumed, give them pieces of information leading to the title track name and date of release. It reminded me of the movie National Treasure, where each subsequent location would lead to another piece of the puzzle.

Handong's hint from a little while back that fans should turn on Airdrop and Sharing access on their phones turned out to be a critical clue, as the six-hour event kicked off with the sending of an image with four QR codes, a text description, and a curious symbol in the middle bottom.

Black puzzle piece with parts of the alphabet in a 3 x 3 grid as the first mystery code clue.
First puzzle piece with a curious set of letters.
Number 2 on a white background, first number clue for mystery code.
First numerical clue, number "2".

Two of the QR codes led to Dreamcatcher's official Instagram and the group's "OOTD" MV, but the others led to a curious puzzle piece with letters in a 3 by 3 grid and the number 2. Over 6 hours of travel, the collective images put themselves together:

The /r/Dreamcatcher subreddit has a great megathread combining all the images and information from this latest mystery code, but the summary was:

  • A tic-tac-toe cipher was used to match the bottom middle symbols to letters.
  • The letters formed the word "JUSTICE", believed to be the title track name.
  • The numbers as a whole formed "2024 7 10", believed to be the release date.

This leveled up the Mystery Code intrigue and it seemed everyone on the ground who was following along seemed to enjoy themselves a lot, despite apparent rainy weather and a lot of chasing around to locations to get media. It was well-thought-out, and served to build a ton of excitement for the upcoming release.

Normally, I would have signed off with my usual tagline about next week, but just as I was finishing up reporting on this, even more interesting tidbits dropped from Dreamcatcher about the upcoming comeback. It seems the ARG from last comeback will continue, as brand new, disturbing details came out from the ymenehcra99 YouTube channel about "Company C", their desire to sell people on acquiring a mysterious crown, and the sinister disappearances of those seeking it. New hidden videos, emails, and even an audio file requiring a spectrogram program to decipher are just some of the new details we've heard, and we're bound to hear more. So for all that, and more, I'll see you here next Sunday! Be sure to subscribe below so you don't miss any of the news!

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