‘Produce X 101‘ has ended and the lineup for the group X1 has been announced and Asian Junkie readers would be forgiven if you didn’t know this since I didn’t bother covering it. That was both because I had no interest in the format and because there wasn’t much noteworthy that came out of it in terms of drama.
Well … until now, because the final lineup and the vote count that determined it has led to massive drama.
The 11 members of the new boy group X1 were determined in the July 19 broadcast through a combination of online votes and text votes that were sent in by fans during the show. Kim Yo Han took first place and the center position, with fellow X1 members including Kim Woo Seok, Han Seung Woo, Song Hyeong Jun, Cho Seung Youn, Son Dong Pyo, Lee Han Gyul, Nam Do Hyon, Cha Jun Ho, Kang Min Hee, and Lee Eun Sang. The first 10 members were decided through the latest round of online voting and text votes, while Lee Eun Sang joined the group as the “X” after receiving the next highest accumulated votes throughout the season. Following the show, some fans speculated that there had been manipulation of the text votes after they compared the announced vote totals of the winning trainees. The speculations center on the similarities between the gaps in votes between trainees. For example, there are five voting gaps between contestants that all come to 29,978 votes —between No. 1 (1,334,011) and No. 2 (1,304,033), No. 3 (1,079,200) and No. 4 (1,049,222), No. 6 (824,389) and No. 7 (794,411), No. 7 and No. 8 (764,433), and No. 10 (749,444) and No. 11 (719,466). There are other combinations of voting gaps that also match each other. Many people have been calling for a response from Mnet, particularly as fans paid a fee to send in their text votes.
Mnet initially responded to the claims of vote manipulation by saying they don’t think it needed to be officially addressed.
On July 22, it was reported by Ilgan Sports that a source from Mnet stated, “We are aware that there are suspicions regarding the text votes. So we internally kept checking the data, but there was no issue at all.” They added, “There was no issue with the text voting and no manipulation.” “It’s interesting that the vote gap repeated several times, but that is the score as is, so there is nothing to say,” they stated. “It seems that the suspicions would not subside even if we were to release an official statement, so I don’t think one will be released.”
Surely they figured, as did I, that it would go away just like previous accusations of odd results/rigging rankings did.
Thing is, it actually escalated. Fans brought in a lawyer and were threatening a lawsuit.
On July 24, lawyer Goo Hye Min of MAST Law & Consulting revealed that she will be the legal representative for a fan committee that was formed to uncover the truth behind the “Produce X 101” voting. The committee has been raising funds to prepare for the lawsuit. The lawyer stated to Money Today TheL, “Sometime next week, we will file a complaint to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office against the ‘Produce X 101’ staff on charges such as fraud and interference with business. Several charges are being mentioned currently, and we are reviewing a wide range of potential issues we can bring up, rather than focusing on just a few charges.” Lawyer Lee Ji Yoon of the Korea Communications Commission additionally explained, “If it is revealed that there was corrupt solicitation between entertainment agencies and [‘Produce X 101’] production staff that led to the manipulation of votes, the law on occupational breach of trust can be applied as well.” According to Money Today TheL, the manipulation of votes could also be a violation of some of the clauses in the Broadcasting Act. Article 5 (Public Responsibility of Broadcasting) and Article 6 (Impartiality and Public Interest of Broadcasting) state that a broadcast must abide by the fundamental democratic order and be impartial. Furthermore, some fans claim that because viewers were charged 100 won (approximately $0.08) for each text vote, the manipulation of these votes could be considered fraud. However, the Korean law on fraud states that there must be evidence of the perpetrator’s intention to deceive the victims, and it may be difficult to prove this point.
Meanwhile, politician Ha Tae Kyung of the Bareun Mirae Party called for an investigation.
“The Produce X 101 vote rigging scandal is a type of employment fraud and corruption. There were so many reports that were asking for the truth, so I took a look at the content. It is almost certain that the votes were manipulated. From 1st place to 20th place, there is a particular number the votes were a multiple of (7944.44) and it was from 1st place (178 times) to 20th place (38 times). I asked mathematicians around me that I knew, and they said the statistical probability of these 20 numbers, from 1st place to 20th place, is virtually 0. This means that the voting results were already prepared in advance. It is unclear whether the vote rigging has changed the actual ranking. We won’t know until the real results are revealed. However, the manipulation of this youth audition program is an obvious case of fraud and corruption. They have deceived and hurt the fans who have supported and voted for their idols. This scandal is also giving teenagers a distorted view on democracy. This case should be brought to prosecution so the truth can finally see the light.”
Motivated by the escalation, Mnet released a statement. They admit there were errors that led to the suspicious results, but insisted that there was no malicious intent and there was no change to the final group anyway.
“During the [July] 19 live show, “Produce X 101” revealed the total numbers of individual votes based on combined online pre-votes and live text votes when announcing each of the 11 members who will debut. Following the broadcast, the “Produce X 101” production staff recognized that the gaps in votes between some of the trainees are identical. After checking, we discovered that although there are no issues with the total ranking, there were errors in the process of calculating and relaying the total numbers of individual votes. This is an explanation regarding the identical gaps in votes between the trainees. The “Produce X 101” staff in charge of calculating the votes during the live show validated the rankings via multiple methods by recording the rankings based on vote counts and also calculating based on the percentage of each trainee’s votes. However, in the process of validating the rankings, this staff rounded the vote percentages up to two decimal places, and the vote counts that were converted from the vote percentages were relayed to the live show. We once again confirm that there were no changes in the rankings in this process. We once again apologize to all of the national producers who supported and voted for “Produce X 101” and also to the trainees and related parties. We will improve our text voting system and calculation system to prevent this problem from occurring again the future. Our production staff will put in our full effort to produce more transparent and fair programs in the future.”
Nothing will probably come of this, but it’s interesting to see Mnet sweat a bit following the threat of legal action. Like unless they were even stupider than they already have shown to be to allow things to get to this point and have left an actual paper trail of corruption or something, this probably won’t impact the X1, ‘Produce’, or Mnet.
That said, the ceiling of potential mess here is ridiculously high if they actually have to switch things up with the group and/or get caught doing something illegal.