Superstar K denies audition fixed

November 19, 2014
From left, Kim Feel, Lim Do-hyeok, and Kwak Jin-eon, the top three members of Mnet's popular audition program, Superstar K6, attend a press meeting on Oct. 12. Two days later, Lim failed to advance in the semi-final round at the Grand Peace Hall in Kyung Hee University, Seoul. Mnet, CJ E&M's cable music channel, recently denied allegations that scriptwriters guaranteed some contestants a place in the top 10.  (Courtesy of CJ E&M)

From left, Kim Feel, Lim Do-hyeok, and Kwak Jin-eon, the top three members of Mnet’s popular audition program, Superstar K6, attend a press meeting on Oct. 12. Two days later, Lim failed to advance in the semi-final round at the Grand Peace Hall in Kyung Hee University, Seoul. Mnet, CJ E&M’s cable music channel, recently denied allegations that scriptwriters guaranteed some contestants a place in the top 10. (Courtesy of CJ E&M)

By Kim Jae-heun

Widely popular audition program, Superstar K, denied allegations Wednesday that it had an arrangement with some contestants guaranteeing them a slot in the final round of 10.

The initial field of 1.5 million applicants from Korea, Asia and the United States has now been narrowed down to two Season 6 finalists, Kim Feel and Kwak Jin-eon, who will square off in a singing contest at 11 p.m. this Friday.

Responding to an inquiry by The Korea Times, Mnet, the broadcaster of Superstar K, denied any hint of wrongdoing.

“We have not made potential participants any kind of promise, nor could we make one,” a company official said. She added: “We invite little-known but talented singers we find on YouTube by contacting them via their Facebook accounts. We also encourage others who are good, but failed to make it in other audition programs.”

Mnet is a music channel affiliated with CJ E&M.

Speaking to The Korea Times, a music industry source revealed that scriptwriters who work for Mnet sent handwritten letters inviting talented singers with a degree of popularity. The scriptwriters, who play an influential role in everything from storytelling to cast recruitment, would then offer guarantees that the contestants would advance into the final rounds, he said.

In addition, he also alleged that artists pre-selected for the Season 6 teaser clip would be presented beforehand to a judging panel of singers and composers.

The teaser clip for this season aired at midnight, Aug. 21, on the eve of the first episode, and attracted over 1 million viewers.

Of the four artists that appeared in the teaser, two made it into the top three, Lim Do-hyeok and Kwak Jin-eon, with Kwak making it all the way to Friday’s decider.

Some bloggers and Internet posts have also linked the participation of Jason Ray, an American YouTube star, with the alleged Mnet scheme. Ray was not available for comment when contacted by The Korea Times.

Superstar K officials have responded by saying they contacted “a lot of people” to offer invitations.

Regarding the allegations of handwritten letters of encouragement, Mnet said it checked with its writers and found that one was written to lure one very enticing potential contestant for a previous season.

“But it was never sent,” an official said.

Superstar K has run for six seasons now as K-pop’s premier audition program.

Its ratings reached an incredible 11.8 percent of total viewership in its third season. A 2 percent rating is usually considered a success for a cable program.

Superstar K5 last year was considered a flop in comparison, garnering a 4.24 percent rating.

Of the three finalists this year, all were professional singers — one has released his seventh album, another is an underground singer and one participated in the making of a movie original soundtrack.

Superstar K insisted that no applicants receive preferential treatment.

An Mnet official did confirm the need for “special” contestants, saying, “If we only receive ordinary applicants, the program would lack diversity. So we include talented singers with little public exposure.”

He added that all the “invited” contestants were treated the same as any other participants.

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