I had previously wondered whether authorities were going to scapegoat a few individuals or were going to get serious about what is essentially a fraud/corruption scandal in regards to the ‘Produce 101‘ vote manipulation. While the latter doesn’t seem secure just yet, reports that the VP of CJ E&M was booked as a suspect is certainly a step in the right direction.
MBC’s “News Desk” reported on November 12 that Shin Hyung Kwan, the vice president of CJ ENM and the person in charge of Mnet, has been booked as a suspect by the police. A search and seizure has also been conducted on his office, and it’s reported that the police acquired a computer hard drive and other materials related to Mnet’s audition programs. Shin Hyung Kwan has been in charge of Mnet’s shows including the “Produce 101” series and “Idol School,” which are under suspicion of vote manipulation. A source from the police stated, “Vice President Shin was booked as a suspect in order for the search and seizure warrant to be issued.”
The police source stated that they need to look into the suspicions regarding Shin Hyung Kwan further. MBC reports that while they made a cautious statement, the police are determining if Shin Hyung Kwan was deeply involved in the ranking manipulation as he frequently communicated with the production team. After analyzing the materials obtained through the search and seizure, the police may call Shin Hyung Kwan in for questioning following the confirmation of suspicions.
We’ll see how this turns out (probably nothing for those that matter), but there is no way that these major entertainment companies were blatantly manipulating the results of one of their flagship shows and no higher-ups knew about it and it was just the producers.
All this follows reports that police booked 10 individuals, and also that contestants were being called in for questioning.
During a press conference held on November 12, Commissioner General Lee Yong Pyo of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency stated, “In total, about 10 individuals involved with ‘Produce X 101’ were booked, including high-ranking officials from CJ.” This also includes Ahn Joon Young, chief producer (CP) Kim Yong Bum, a producing director (PD) named “Lee,” and Starship Entertainment’s vice president “Kim.” Commissioner General Lee Yong Pyo continued, “We believe that a thorough investigation should be conducted in order to create a fair society. We are also thoroughly investigating suspicions regarding the entertainment agencies, exchange of favors, and involvement of high-ranking officials.” The 10 individuals are expected to be forwarded to the prosecution on November 14.
Newsis reported that the police are planning to summon contestants from “Produce X 101” as witnesses to question them regarding the suspicions of manipulation. According to the report, the police believe there are certain trainees who were benefited by the manipulation and others who suffered a disadvantage. Those who will be questioned include trainees of agencies that were searched and seized, as well as trainees who were highly likely to make it to the final lineup but did not make it. Newsis predicts that the police will ask the trainees if they heard anything while filming or from their agencies regarding rank manipulation. The news outlet adds that the police will look into all suspicions including the possibility that popular contestants were purposely taken out of the final lineup due to concerns that the results would complicate their upcoming agency-oriented activities. Furthermore, police are reportedly investigating the possibility that there might have been lobbying and the exchange of favors by the so-called major agencies in the process of selecting the final 11 members out of the 101 contestants.
That only makes sense since some seemed to have an intimate knowledge of how the system worked.