‘Under 15’ audition show recruits participants aged 3-15, PD Seo Hye Jin says fans want younger singers

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Under 15 is an upcoming audition program to find a vocal-centric girl group for worldwide promotion, and it’s being put together by PD Seo Hye Jin, who is behind Mr. Trot, Miss Trot, The King Of Singers, and Korean-Japanese Singers Competition.

While there’s a history of success there, it’s making news for other reasons, as the program is recruiting children from 3-15 years of age from over 70 countries, and the PD wants the group to be younger than NewJeans‘ age at debut (16.4). When asked about the surprisingly young age requirements, the PD couldn’t be clearer that she believes the success of younger girl group reflects what the audience wants.

“Recently, there has been a clear trend in viewer voting that favors younger singers. We put together Under 15 with the thinking that it reflects the current K-Pop trend.”

“When producing Korea-Japan King of Singers, I noticed that teenagers—whose vocal colors were clean—gained a lot of support. Viewers’ preferences have changed. It seems like the pure emotions unique to teenagers have captivated the audience. Perhaps viewers are now looking for untainted talents, as the world becomes more complex and difficult to navigate.”

Both Korean and international netizen reactions range from shock to disgust over this, both regarding the headline and the quotes from the producer. And they’re not wrong to be weirded out about the way things are, of course.

That said, how surprised can we honestly be about this? To me, her quotes are just a mostly accurate observation of the K-pop fandom. International fans see themselves as more progressive about this issue than Koreans, but even in their sphere, older idols are frequently discarded for younger ones, older idols get made fun of as not fitting in (especially on survival shows), and older idols are less popular for the most part. Since K-pop is obviously a hypercapitalist industry, they’re aiming to provide what most of the consumers are telling them will make money. And honestly, that makes me wonder how much of being mad about this is basically just about her holding up a mirror to our collective consumption habits within K-pop. Saying the quiet part out loud, so to speak.