Deep Dive: Why A2K Is Causing Controversy Even Before the Auditioning Process Begins

Following its ongoing and proven success story in South Korea, and a rapidly growing presence in the Japanese music industry, JYP Entertainment is preparing to blast their way into the world's biggest music market - the United States.

The company recently released a promotional teaser for their upcoming project "A2K" - America 2 Korea. This group is expected to be a K-pop style girl group formed in the United States, primarily for an American and Western audience.

But the future group, which hasn't even been cast yet, has already come under intense scrutiny from fans based on this video alone.

Before we can jump straight into the reasons behind the backlash, we first need to discuss the history of JYP Entertainment and their plans for global music domination.

JYP and the Globalization of the Music Industry

JYP's interest in bringing K-pop to the Western world is what has made the man and the company a driving force in the ongoing success of the South Korean music industry's globalization.

The company's second-generation K-pop group, Wonder Girls, had singles and promotions that were specifically marketed toward a Western audience, making them one of the first groups to do so, and to find success (even if it was only small-scale).

Following this, the company's third generation boy group GOT7 went on to find further success in the United States and the Western world, while their third generation girl group TWICE also found huge success internationally, with the original intentions of essentially a South Korean-Japanese co-production being superceded by the group's intense international fanbase.

JYP Entertainment is now home to a diverse cast of successfully debuted idols from Taiwan, America, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

And while groups like TWICE and ITZY have made great bounds forward in the Japanese and American music markets for JYP Entertainment and the K-pop industry as a whole, it still feels very much to be the penetration of K-pop into these markets rather than the company themselves. But this is changing.

"America 2 Korea" is not JYP's first attempt at developing in international markets. The ongoing "Nizi Project", which has created one girl group and is set to make a new boy group soon, is the company's way of developing in a new international market.

NiziU - the girl group formed from the "Nizi Project" - became a major overnight success in the J-pop scene. Unlike Mnet’s recent forays into the J-pop scene, which feels uncannily like a K-pop invasion of the musical heritage of J-pop, JYP has ensured NiziU (and to an extent even TWICE's Japanese releases) follow a structure expected of the Japanese music industry. This has allowed the group become incredibly successful both in Japan and internationally. 

Development of the A2K project has been taking place for more than two years now, despite only recently being brought to the attention of the public. Replicating the success of the "Nizi Project" in Japan could bring unforetold riches to the Entertainment company as they enter a new age of a globalized music industry.

The problem with the A2K project

Controversy regarding the A2K project began after the initial official announcement through the video released on the company's YouTube channel.

At the very end of the video, a grainy image appears, revealing the requirements in regards to the auditioning process. This includes many of the standard terms, conditions, and inclusions, including the submission dates for several cities across the United States, and the following statement in relation to auditionees:

"The competition is open to persons identifying as she/they/them between the ages of 12 and 16."

An auditioning age of between twelve and sixteen means the company is looking for potential idols born between 2006 and 2010.

While many people thought that this would mean that the selected trainees would undergo a lengthy training process of some years, further details showed an expected debut release schedule for 2023. This could see the possibility of trainees as young as 12 debuting and performing for audiences.

While in the South Korean music industry, debuting idols of younger and younger ages is becoming more normalized, the trend is increasingly concerning for many K-pop fans. And while the move has been made by some smaller companies to debut very young idols (Marbling and JTG Entertainment's Busters come to mind), these would be some of the youngest debut ages for a major company.

JYP Entertainment's history with the age of debut

With JYP Entertainment and their American compatriot, Republic Records set to debut idols so young into the American music industry, it's been noticed by many online that the age range is one of the youngest and strictest in the history of JYP Entertainment.

Nizi project - which created JYP Entertainment's Japanese girl group NiziU - had an audition range of fifteen to twenty-two years of age. Had the twelve to sixteen range been in effect for this show, four of the debut lineup would not have even been eligible to audition.

When imposed on "Sixteen" - the survival show which created hit girl group TWICE - only the youngest members in Tzuyu and Chaeyoung would have been eligible.

In fact, "Sixteen" brings forward an incredibly important point. The finale of this much-criticized survival show saw popular trainee contestants Somi and Natty eliminated due to their ages. Somi and Natty were thirteen and fourteen years of age at the time of the show. A2K could see idols debuting even younger than this.

And JYP Entertainment's history of the sexualization of minors has also been brought back up in social media circles because of all of this.

How the audience is pushing back

A petition has been created, requesting for JYP Entertainment to raise the age limit on auditions for A2K, citing the often mature and explicit content that performs well in American media and the damaging climate of the music industry. You can click to sign the petition here. The petition has now been signed almost 1,500 times at the time of the writing of this article.

Others are also making their voices known on social media, including Twitter user @nottodaya2k, whose thread on the situation inspired this article, and has been retweeted more than 3,000 times.

JYP Entertainment's decision based on the age of the idols they debut from A2K could change the trajectory of K-pop debuts going ahead.

Ford Carter

Ford Carter is an online blogger studying journalism who's hundreds of articles across half a dozen fansites from the music and television industries have now been read more than 300,000 times. From his home in regional Australia, you'll often find him binging kdramas or rewatching old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post