BTS' Jin recently commented on a fans' concern on Weverse, expressing his stance on K-pop idols debuting "too young." His statement doesn't come out of thin air. Recently, trainees as young as 12 and 14 were announced as a part of the debut lineup in up-and-coming groups.
To fans, an idol's words of encouragement make a world’s difference. Similarly, on November 14, BTS' oldest member Jin replied to a concerned fans' message. The fan explained their concern on a Weverse post, mentioning that even though they were born in 2003, "nothing works out" as agencies think they’re “too late." They asked what Jin thought about the situation and whether he thinks they're right or not.
BTS' Jin replies to a concerned fan on Weverse
BTS' Jin replied with a simple comment. He first reassured the fan, stating that he debuted at 20 years old as BTS's most senior member. His statement implied that the fan might not be too late. Leader RM and rapper J-Hope debuted at 18 years old, the same age as the fan.
He further added that he realizes idols “these days” are debuting too young. BTS debuted in 2013.
Recently, an array of young idols have been revealed to debut in upcoming K-pop groups. Multiple international and local fans have been vocal about the change.
Psy's decision to debut a 12-year-old from the survival show LOUD received major flak in September. Even Vanilla-group LIGHTSUM's Jian and Billie's Haruna (both groups debuted in 2021) were born in 2006, making them only 15 years old. Leeseo, a member of the upcoming girl group IVE, will also debut at 14 years old.
Fans believe debuting before one hits 18 years is clear exploitation of them. Under the umbrella of honing them to be almost-perfect idols, the agencies end up destroying their childhood. They also believe the ill-effects of the K-pop industry - marketed as products, extreme objectification, packed schedules by juggling homework, classes and training - should be kept away from them till they’re mature enough to take care of themselves. Fortunately, agencies have been giving idols’ hiatus’ in recent years if they are diagnosed with mental stress or illness.
However, a chunk of fans remain divided on it. Many justify the age range by citing today's iconic K-pop stars such as BTS' Jungkook and IU, who debuted at 15 and SHINee's Taemin, HyunA, Sunmee and Sohee, who debuted at 14. There's also no denying that these particular idols have often talked about the hardships of debuting at such a young age.
The fan groups with contrasting views look at it from their distinguished perspectives. People against idols debuting below at least 16-17 years old believe the cutthroat industry shakes up the entire personality and childhood of an idol. Jungkook once revealed that he doesn’t know who to be, except BTS’ maknae.
On the other hand, people believe that the competition to survive in the K-pop world is rising, and if trainees don’t debut flawlessly, they’ll disappear into thin air without making a name for themselves.