By Nadine Kam I When I started watching “YG Treasure Box I had no intention of getting completely sucked in by it. I assumed it would be like any other American talent competition in which I never formed any kind of attachment to the contestants.
I just thought it would be interesting to watch the process that trainees go through en route to Kpop stardom. I knew it would be brutal, but intensity of the TV competition also turned out to be downright cruel, especially when friends teamed up because they thought they would be performing as a duo, only to find out later they would be in a competition with each other to stay or leave.
I’ve become quite accustomed to crying over the trials of idols I already know, but it was new to be crying over and worrying about these strangers I got to know over 10 weekly episodes.
The difference between the Korean and American shows is that in this country, there is the feeling that there is an element of luck involved in becoming a successful performer. You can work hard, but unless you get that lucky break or meet the right person, you may continue to work in obscurity. But you will be able to find work. There is also the feeling that if you don’t make it, you can find success on some other path. In Korea, these individuals train toward their goals from childhood, like elite athletes who give up friendships, love, normal schooling and other activities to make it in the industry. Because they give up so much, there is a feeling that they can’t reclaim that time or change course easily if they don’t succeed. Their destiny rests in only a handful of entertainment companies and the pain and anxiety they feel is palpable.
There were 29 candidates up for what would become seven spots in YG’s next boy band, and they were all so talented.
A couple were obvious choices who made it to the final team, such as the sweet voiced six-year YG veteran Bang Ye Dam, and the YG Japan team’s Haruto, a baritone rapper who sounds like YG’s rival to BTS’s Kim Taehyung, known throughout the industry for his deep, sultry voice, unusual in the high-pitched world of Kpop.
Along the way I appreciated the talents of the Team J’s Keita and Mashiho, and prayed there would be a spot for talented rapper, singer, dancer Choi Hyun Suk, who seemed to get verbally pounded by the main producer Yang Hyun Suk at every turn. It made me sad to see this bright boy crying so much.
I thought my ordeal and the suspense over who would make the final team would be over when the program ended Jan. 18. But to keep the attention and hype going, The company took a week longer to announce the winners one at a time, every other day. The waiting was killing me because I was so invested in seeing Hyun Suk, a three-year trainee win a spot.
When the show ended, we were left with four winners: the expected Ye Dam and Haruto, Junkyu, and unbelievably to fans, newer trainee So Jung Hwan, who beat out much more polished Team A treasures, called the Silverboys. They are talented individuals who had spent the most time as YG trainees.
Even then, all hell was breaking loose for YG, with friends calling for the agency to debut all the Silverboys they had been rooting for since the start of the competition and calling for #justiceforsilverboys.
The first of the post-show winners to be announced was another young trainee, Park Jeong Woo. There were few quibbles over his selection. Though green, he has a pretty voice and the kind of sweet disposition that drives fans to want to take care of him. Plus, there were two spots left for my favorites, Hyun Suk and wildly popular Mashiho.
But all hope was dashed with the next unpopular announcement of Soon Jae Hyuk. Nobody could see what he could contribute to the team. He was ranked last in the first assessment of the competition. Even toward the end, he had trouble singing the right notes. And although a lot of the other trainees thought he might have been selected as a visual, I don’t consider him good looking at all, and neither do most international fans from what I have read in IG and Twitter comments.
By this point I had nearly lost hope that Hyun Suk would make it because the producer seemed to be favoring younger, newer trainees. I thought if the choice came down to him or Mashiho on this basis, Mashiho would win. The only case for Hyun Suk would have been his status as a rapper in a lineup that at that point only had one rapper. I crossed my fingers.
As soon as Jaehyuk was named the sixth member, the pleas for Mashiho flooded YG’s IG feed. Oh there was plenty of venom too. Edited images of the YG building going up in flames, and the burning of Yang’s photo, etc. They threatened to abandon YG and the Treasures and vowed to follow Big Hit’s new boy group TXT instead.
I hope there is a secret plan to debut two bands at the same time. Certainly the Team A treasures are all so deserving and were a tight, ready-to-debut ensemble before the series ever started.
Finally, the last announcement came yesterday and Choi Hyun Suk was named as the last member. I was so happy and stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch them come together and talk about their experience on Vlive. By the time I went to bed an hour-and-a-half later, they had generated 1.1 million views and more than 10 million hearts, phenomenal numbers for a group that has yet to debut.