Mnet’s Produce 101 has been thrust into the spotlight once again for the wrong reasons as reports have suggest the show has been discriminating against certain contestants.
A recent news report claimed that the contestants of the audition show Produce 101 was discriminating their contestants based on their “caste level”, where higher level contestants were being given special privileges compared to lower caste contestants.
Korean news site, Ilgan Sports reported that higher level contestants were always allowed to eat, finish their interview, go home, and even go to the bathroom before any of the lower-profile members of the show. This, of course, stirred up quite the controversy as it shows signs that the show was being unfair to less well-known contestants.
According to this source, an agency representative had spoken to Ilgan Sports and expressed that they felt this type of grouping structure was unfair, and outlined that many contestants considered “lower caste” by the show’s production staff were unable to relieve themselves at all.
“There have been cases where lower caste contestants haven’t been able to relieve themselves because the higher caste contestants are using the bathrooms first. I understand they need to group the contestants because there’s too many, but a system based on caste level is unfair.”
— Anonymous agency representative A
Furthermore, another agency representative claimed that their trainees were eating plain rice without any banchan (side dishes), which could ultimately affect their performance on the show and even result in failure.
“They’re eating plain rice without banchan during an age where they’re meant to be growing. They’re competing without a full dinner plate. Lower caste contestants need to eat well and get stronger, but they’re continuously growing weaker. I don’t know, but I feel like this will just teach younger children the sense of defeat.”
— Anonymous agency representative B
According to the news source, Biz Enter, an insider from Produce 101 responded by stating that these reports were false, and explained that it may have looked that way since the contestants were placed in groups, not necessarily “classes”.
“Since there are so many contestants, they’re moving in groups. The trainees are looking out for each other and competing healthily. The filming process is going smoothly and our viewers have nothing to be concerned about.”
— Insider of Produce 101
Ilgan Sports then spoke with attorney Moon Je Cheol to discuss the legalities of such a program and their treatment of their contestants, to which the attorney explained that this was a difficult issue and that in order for the trainees to succeed, it was better for them to withstand the hardships and come out victorious at the end.
“It looks like the program is inducing a sense of humiliation amongst the contestants so that they can become more competitive. But if a contestant speaks up about this treatment, they’ll be branded as a traitor and they could disappear easily.”
— Attorney Moon Je Cheol
Moon Je Cheol continued to clarify the reality of the alleged discrimination, explaining that there isn’t a lot that can be done.
“Even if a third party were to get involved and report on this issue, people would think a contestant leaked the information out. In order to get your face out there and become recognized, it might be better to withstand it. The reality of it is saddening.”
— Attorney Moon Je Cheol
This is just one of many stories surrounding the show. Recently, the past caught up with one contestant, leading to his departure from the show. As well as this, one contestant was rushed to hospital after an accident on stage.