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For two days straight this week, the number 1 trending search result on Naver was “Wanna One Broadcast Mishap” (워너원 방송사고).  

Wanna One is a popular K-pop group that was formed in 2017 by CJ E&M in the second season of a show called Produce 101, a reality program that starts out with 101 K-pop trainees and eliminates contestants until 11 members are chosen to form a new K-pop group. The final members are selected through audience voting and announced during a live finale broadcast, so that even before the group is officially formed each of the members are already extremely popular.

Shown above: Naver’s top trending search results on March 20, 2018

The Reason They Are Trending

On Monday, March 19, Wanna One participated in a live Mnet broadcast to celebrate its comeback and new album ‘0+1=1 (I Promise You)’. During the broadcast, some of the members – apparently unaware that cameras were still rolling – made comments that certain viewers thought unbecoming of K-pop artists and public figures.

One of the members complained about his pay; another demanded “Why aren’t we getting any sleep? Why do we not have any freedom?”

When a female staffer told the members to get in position for the live broadcast, one member playfully shouted: “I’m gonna reveal my cell phone number” while another announced “I pooped this morning.”

But the real controversy of the event stems from the fact that some netizens claim they heard one of the members in the background say “I better curse now in advance. F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck.” Others believe that they heard a member use the word “Dae-ddal-gak” (대딸각), an extremely vulgar Korean word to describe masturbation.

Wanna One, YMC Entertainment, and Mnet’s Star Live, in accord with typical Korean tradition, have all quickly issued official apologies to the fans and public. In their official apology, YMC Entertainment expressed remorse at “causing concern to the fans who have been loving and supporting Wanna One ahead of their comeback.” They however also expressed disappointment that “even words that were not used in the videos that are circulating are being magnified and reproduced.”

Public Reaction

Some netizens found the broadcast infuriating: many fans claimed disappointment and shock over witnessing the stark difference between their favourite artists on and off camera, while others bashed the young artists for their vulgarity.

In Korea, K-pop artists are referred to as “idols,” which literally means “a representation of an object of worship” or “a false god” (Merriam-Webster). Korean idols are pressured and expected to portray an idea of fantasy and idealism to the public, and when that fantasy is broken people often become disappointed and sometimes angry. But the fantasy of perfection is difficult to maintain for anybody, let alone for a teenager or young adult.

Below are some of the highest voted comments on news stories regarding the incident:

“If only they sincerely regretted swearing and using risque language in front of a woman staffer. Even if you do apologize, nothing is going to change – properly reflect!”
[1309 up votes, 236 down votes]

“Disband them~ Return to your trainee status and learn some manners [to better your character]”
[7150 up votes, 1417 down votes]

“You need to acknowledge when you’ve done something wrong.”
[2183 agreed, 151 disagreed]

“You can’t shield this incident [cover it up] lololol they really showed us their daily life”
[844 agreed, 22 disagree]

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