‘PDX101’ & ‘Idol School’ contestants & companies speak out about preferential treatment

As reports emerged that police had found evidence of rigging in ‘Produce X 101’ and that ‘Idol School’ was under investigation (along with basically the rest of Mnet’s survival shows), contestants for those two shows spoke up about how even aside from any voting controversy things were unfair behind the scenes as well.

MBC News interviewed a contestant who talked about the unequal airtime (which is kind of an open secret) and also that some contestants get to know missions in advance (which is seemingly not an open secret).

A trainee who appeared on “Produce X 101” was interviewed anonymously. He described how from the start, only some particular trainees were filmed and shown on air, and also some trainees knew a mission song in advance and practiced for it. He stated that some of the contestants already knew a mission song because one of the trainees had shared the information. “We asked him about it and he said that his dance teacher had told him,” said the trainee.

Additionally, they talked to an agency head that said people discussed how things seemed pre-determined.

The head of an entertainment agency also said that it was an open practice for the production team to have already chosen who they liked (known among viewers as “PD pick”). He said, “I heard people say things like, ‘It seems like a few agencies already knew the list’ and ‘It seems people were already aware of it.’”

Furthermore, the contracts were revealed, basically showing that the show gets everything and the contestants don’t get much.

In its October 4 report, MBC stated that when a song is released, 1 million won (approximately $837) is given to the agency of the contestant, with the contestant getting only tens of thousands of won (approximately tens of dollars) from that amount. In cases where songs do very well, CJ ENM receives the additional profits rather than sharing with the agency. MBC reports that according to the contracts between CJ ENM, the “Produce X 101” contestants, and their agencies, 100,000 won (approximately $83.70) was given for each episode the contestant appeared in.

Some companies apparently didn’t like the contracts to the extent that they would just ask to be eliminated.

MBC reports, “Some entertainment sources have said that as there were many parts to it that were unfair, some agencies would instead ask for elimination at the last minute.”

“But IATFB, this isn’t a charity, of course they are gonna benefit from their own show!”

Aside from the fact that paying less than $100 an episode for a show that will result in a group that is eventually going to making them millions upon millions is almost insulting, this line of thinking would only hold up assuming that things are fair. Then you could argue they’re taking a risk for their shot at fame and multi-millions, but if it’s not fair, then they are just paid fodder to build hype for the show’s ideal group and should be compensated as such.

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As for ‘Idol School’, a contestant said that some didn’t even have to audition and were basically pre-selected.

The trainees on the show were supposed to have been chosen through a first round of auditions, but she stated that many of the contestants had made it on the show without coming to the audition. “When we did the audition, we were at a place with 3,000 applicants, but out of the 40 of us [students who appeared], only four went to the audition,” she said.

Perhaps most importantly, they are investigating if it was just Mnet’s choice in alleged manipulation or if companies were involved.

Noh Woong Rae, an assembly person and the chairperson of the Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee, stated to MBC, “If CJ ENM is responsible as a broadcast company, then the person responsible has to attend the National Assembly inspection and clearly explain to the nation about the manipulation of this program.” MBC reports that police are currently investigating to find out if unfair business deals took place with others such as entertainment agencies while choosing the contestants and manipulating the rankings for Mnet’s audition programs.

I mean, you’d have to figure companies are involved somehow.

Furthermore, contestants complained that they felt it was more like the military or prison than a school.

MBC also spoke about violations of the rights of “Idol School” contestants during their stay in the dorms. The survival show began in the summer and lasted for about six months, but the contestants were only given uniforms appropriate for summer and reportedly had to wear them even when the weather turned cold. An “Idol School” contestant said, “We’d say to each other, ‘This must be what it’s like in the military.’ Even though it was freezing out, we had to wear summer clothes for six months.” MBC reports that the contestants were cut off from the outside world and only able to buy daily necessities once a month from a drug store that’s a CJ subsidiary. In addition, they were not given enough to eat. The contestant said, “They let us go to [school] once or twice a month. Those girls would hide food in their hats or underwear and then share it with the others, and they’d eat it like they were beggars.”

The unfortunate thing about this? That one could react to this by saying “well sounds like most companies that make their idols dorm” and they wouldn’t be wrong, but that it’s so ho-hum normalized is comical.

Also Lee Haein’s father, recently spoke out about things. Suspicions always surrounded how she suddenly dropped to 11th place, and the vote manipulation has brought things back to the forefront.

I had my suspicions that the votes for my daughter were manipulated when she was eliminated in the final. I wanted to raise the issue back in 2017 at the time of the alleged vote manipulation, but I felt like I was forced to let it go because I thought it would create problems for my daughter’s debut later on.

— Lee Haein’s father

Additionally, he says she signed with a subsidiary in order to not be disadvantaged, but CJ E&M never held up their end of things.

When my daughter was on Idol School, CJ ENM offered her a contract with one of its affiliates companies. The contract was signed because of the fear that she would be put at a disadvantage if she rejected the offer.
CJ ENM promised to bring together trainees who were eliminated from Idol School and debut them later, but the promise was not kept. My daughter was unable to try and join a different company due to being under contract.
— Lee Haein’s father

He says he will take legal action if vote manipulation is shown.

In response, CJ E&M didn’t exactly deny that they didn’t do shit with them.

Among the trainees who were on the show, we asked some of them to sign contracts as potential debuting trainees, and Lee Haein was one who accepted. We did our best to have Lee Haein (and the other trainees) make their debut even after elimination from the show, but we feel sorry that it did not work out. Lee Haein announced her intentions to leave the agency for reasons such as being unable to make her debut, and after months of discussions, we terminated our contract with her.
— CJ ENM

They also seemingly don’t give a shit, which doesn’t surprise given how they handled labor law violations and what not. They act like they can do what they want because … well, seems like they can.

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Overall it definitely seems like there’s more to the ‘Produce X 101’ case for now than the ‘Idol School’ case, but this feels like just the start.

For readers of this site, I doubt much of this actually does surprise. Though I honestly didn’t think they gave preferred contestants the missions beforehand as that is … well, blatant. Though with the hubris they showed in the vote manipulation, in retrospect I guess we know better now.

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