By Nadine Kam I YG Entertainment, one of the big three K-pop star makers opens the doors to its brutal training program via its reality survival series “YG Treasure Box,” which has racked up 25 million international views in its third week.
The series shows YG CEO/producer Yang Hyun Suk going through the process of selecting members for YG’s first new boy group in four years, from the company’s so-called “Treasure Box” of 29 promising trainees. From this field, only five to seven will make the final cut.
Treasure Box A’s performance of Wanna One’s “Energetic.”
Each trainee is already assigned to a group. Group A comprises long-term trainees. Singer Bang Ye Dam and Kim Seung Hun have the dubious distinction of being YG trainees the longest, at six and nine years, respectively. At that point, with advancing age, there must be the worrisome doubt as to whether one will ever debut.
Group B consists of relative newcomers to the company, with the least amount of experience. They reflect the company’s new initiative in putting a focus on beauty first, with Yang saying that YG had passed on too many success stories such as Rain, by focusing first on ability over looks.
Group C are the youngest and most uninhibited, at ages 14 and 15.
Group J was a surprise hidden team, arriving from Japan.
Only about five to seven of 29 hopefuls will be selected for YG’s next boy band.
The series shows the company’s grueling assessment sessions in which each member performs before a panel of judges and their fellow trainees. It often pits trainee against trainee in categories of voice, rap and dance. It’s impossible to not feel for the trainees who often lose confidence in light of the competition for a limited number of debut spots.
When they fail to meet expectations, they can be brutally dismissed from the company, walking out the door on the spot after perhaps years of training. One member—though a talented vocalist—felt the pressure and chose to leave after spending 2-1/2 years in the trainee program. I can only hope some other company might reach out to him, because he is certainly deserving of the spotlight.
It must be so frustrating to be in that type of situation. It was the type of circumstance that pitted BTS’s Kim Taehyung and Park Jimin against each other for so long and had them depressed because neither was certain he would debut. Tae was said to be a secret member, though fans are uncertain whether that meant he was kept under wraps because of extraordinary beauty that would wow the industry when he first showed his face, or whether that meant producers were unsure he would make the cut. His lyric baritone voice is certainly unusual in K-pop, which favors tenors. That made him a bit of a risk to cast, but certainly rewarding to Big Hit Entertainment in the long run.
Bang Ye Dam has waited six years to debut.
As expected, group A put on the best live performance for the judges. They are so polished, I thought they are all so deserving and could easily debut as a group right now. But they could not escape the vagaries of the company’s producers. It broke my heart to see them split apart when they are already a pretty tight family.
At the end of the third episode, two trainees each were selected from groups B and J for Team Treasure. Three more were selected from both groups A and C.
Watch to see what happens next. YG artist BlackPink will appear in the next episode to offer input. Episodes air 10 p.m. Friday nights (KST) on Naver’s V Live, and again two hours later at midnight on YouTube.