Becoming a K-pop idol isn’t an easy task, among all the competition and high standards. However, with the dominance of the Korean entertainment industry, more and more agencies are coming forward and collaborating with broadcast companies to develop survival shows. These shows not only test the talent and skills of the contestants after providing them with a training period but also help them fulfil their dreams of becoming a K-Pop group member or as a solo artist. It takes a lot to become a K-Pop idol— lots of hard work, gruelling hours, learning how to dance and more. Some of the popular groups/solo artists that were formed at these K-pop survival shows include BIGBANG, Chungha, TWICE, and Stray Kids.
Recently, there is a flurry of such reality survival shows, especially after the success of the Produce franchise. Here is a list of the most popular K-pop survival shows that you must watch if you are a K-pop stan.
8. MixNine (2017-2018)
Another survival reality show from YG Entertainment, ‘MixNine’ had producer Yang Hyun-Suk travel throughout Korea in search of new trainees. The search of the guest judges and Hyun-Suk was completed with a total of 170 trainees who had to undergo different courses and trainings. The contestants were grouped into a team of nine girls and a team of nine boys, to face challenges to be judged by Hyun-Suk and the main panel of judges. The show also featured an interesting concept according to which various popular artists were invited to guide the trainees based on their own talents like rapping or dancing. The girls’ team vs the boys’ team compete in order to win and debut as a new K-Pop group.
7. I-Land (2020)
The show featured a total of 23 male participants who had to showcase their talent in order to be a member of the next K-pop boyband. However, ‘I-Land’ is not exactly how you might be expecting it to be. Other than the basic format of a K-pop survival show, it followed a new concept according to which the participants were sent to a deserted place for a total of 113 days. However, only 12 of them were allowed to stay at a luxurious complex called ‘The I-Land’ that consisted of a stylish living room with studios, a gym among other things. The rest of them had to live at the ‘Ground’ which had a simpler and mediocre living space.
As the show progressed, the contestants from both the resorts participated in a series of challenges, presenting their skills, which determined who could go to ‘I-Land’ and who would be demoted to the ‘Ground’. By the end of the show, the final seven members made their debut as ‘Enhypen’ group. The second installment of ‘I-Land’ is supposed to air sometime in 2022 which will feature female K-pop trainees.
6. YG Treasure Box (2019)
Produced by one of the top agencies, YG Entertainment and broadcasted by JTBC2, ‘YG Treasure Box’ is a K-pop survival show that carried 29 hopeful male trainees ranging from the age of 14 to 19. They would compete against one another to debut in a new K-Pop boy group titled ‘TREASURE’ under YG Entertainment, the same agency that discovered Yang Hyung-Suk in 1996 who went on to become a K-Pop sensation. The trainees were divided into four groups, Treasure A, B, C, and J, distributed based on their skills— singing, dancing and rapping, etc. After each episode, elimination took place and one member from each group was chosen. The show concluded with 12 trainees becoming a part of ‘TREASURE’ who would debut together.
5. The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project (2017)
As the title suggests, ‘The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project’ features male and female idols who have already debuted but needed another shot at stardom. These idols were given an opportunity to present their talents that they might not have been able to showcase before. The contestants were divided into two groups— one composed of nine female idols and another of nine male idols.
The format of the show was based on ‘boots’ such that whenever the contestants’ would perform, the audience would cast their votes which would be converted into boots. One boot was equal to fifteen per cent of votes. If any of the teams would receive a ‘super boot’ which was equal to ninety percent of the audience’s votes, the entire team could join the program then and there. However, if nothing as such happened, the judges would have the power to determine if they could join.
4. Queendom (2019)
This survival show served as a comeback battle between some of South Korea’s trending girl groups who were asked to release six new singles, one by each group, at the same time in order to decide which of them were the best. The purpose of the show was to give exposure to not-so-popular girl groups who are extremely talented and needed another opportunity to shine. The program featured three preliminary performances, one comeback single from each team and one live comeback stage. The final winner was determined by summing up the digital points accumulated from the preliminary performances, comeback singles and live votes of the comeback stages on the grand finale.
The show lasted for ten weeks with the girl group, ‘Mammamoo’ emerging as the winner while ‘Oh My Girl’ finished at the second spot. ‘Mammamoo’ got a chance to debut with their 10th mini-album titled, ‘Travel’.
3. Sixteen (2015)
Another show created by the joint venture of JYP Entertainment and Mnet, ‘Sixteen’ is a survival show that started off with sixteen trainees which included two Japanese trainees, one Thai trainee, one Japanese-American trainee, one Taiwanese trainee and one Korean-Canadian trainee, who competed against each other in order to secure a position in the next girl group which eventually came to be known as ‘Twice‘. The program lasted for ten episodes where the participants were judged not only on the basis of their singing and dancing skills but also by their personalities and charisma.
Seven contestants of the show were also selected as candidates for the upcoming girl group of JYP Entertainment. The rest of the nine contestants would attempt to replace them by the end of the show.
2. Stray Kids (2017)
This collaboration of JYP Entertainment and MNet was supposed to be the next season of the famous survival show, ‘Sixteen’. However, later it was announced that it would have an entirely different formula where male trainees would have to survive throughout the show as a group in order to debut. The participants were asked to prepare the composition of their own songs, sing and rap them with their own choreography before the judges, who needed to score them both individually and as a group. It was because of this survival show which led to the debut of the renowned boy group of nine members (currently eight), ‘Stray Kids‘ which has been amassing worldwide fame ever since it debuted.
1. Produce 101 Series (2016-present)
One of the most popular K-pop survival shows includes Produce 101 which started as a single installment but later produced several seasons across China and Japan. The first season began with a large number of participants, 101 in number, belonging to 46 different entertainment companies. Among them, only 11 were short-listed by the audience. Yes! There were no panel of judges here and the voting depended entirely on the public watching the show. The concept of the group, their debut single as well as the name, everything was decided by the public. The main objective of the show was to focus on the formation of the next girl group. The participants were trained under well-known artists and the final 11 debuted as the group named ‘I.O.I’ who were free to disband after a year.
The show has produced four seasons in South Korea till now, four in China and two in Japan. While the first and the third seasons had female trainees as contestants, season 2 and season 4 featured the male ones. The show is extremely entertaining and fun to watch for all K-pop fans. Artists like ChungHa, Kim Se-Jeong and Somi are some of the participants of the show who have been successful to make a name in the industry.