“She's a literal kid bro”: K-pop fans criticize R U Next? and HYBE for allowing a 12-year-old contestant to participate in the survival show

HYBE and BELIFT LAB's survival show R U Next? comes under fire for letting a 12 year old kid participate in the show (Images via Twitter/RUNext_official and YouTube/HYBE LABELS+)

HYBE’s female debut survival show, R U Next?, in collaboration with BELIFT LAB and JTBC, has come under hot waters for the age of one of its contestants. The show’s official social media accounts released profiles of all 22 participants on June 16, which included a female born in 2011 named ENA. Seeing a 12-year-old child enter an extremely competitive and exhausting survival has K-pop fans all riled up.

Criticism poured in against HYBE, BELIFT LAB, and ENA’s parents for allowing a 12-year-old child to participate in the survival competition. K-pop fans also commented that they would not vote for ENA and requested fellow fans to join hands, as they are vehemently against the young female’s debut.

R U Next? reveals a 2011-born contestant, fans vehemently criticize the agency

HYBE and BELIFT Lab’s debut survival show R U Next? raised much anticipation when it was first announced on June 1. Many were confused as the agencies were set to release a female-centric sequel to I-LAND, a teaser of which they had posted in September last year. Many speculated that the upcoming survival show was created in place of I-LAND 2.

The much-awaited contestant lineup was finally revealed on June 16. What caught the majority of K-pop fans’ eyes was the profile of ENA, a participant born in 2011. Fans expressed their disappointment and anger at HYBE and BELIFT LAB for releasing a debut survival show with a 12-year-old contestant.


The K-pop industry has recently seen idols’ debut age reduced to 13-14 years old and capped at approximately 20-21. SMROOKIES’ Shohei was criticized for debuting at age 26, while BABYMONSTER (YG Entertainment) and NewJeans (ADOR) came under fire for debuting 13 and 14 year old’s in their teams. However, the contestant lineup for R U Next? implies that the debut age of an idol has dropped further to 12 years old.

K-pop fans, who have raised their voices against minors debuting in the overworked, over-competitive, stressful, and sometimes exploitative Korean music industry, once again talked about how dangerous it was to have a 2011-born child compete on a survival show that will be broadcast across the world.

Take a look at fans’ angry reactions towards finding a 12-year-old competing in R U Next? below:

Meanwhile, R U Next? has already added more popular names to its roster. Idol-actor Sooyoung of Girls’ Generation will be hosting the show, which will have seven rounds in total. The production team called Sooyoung "the perfect MC fit" and "a reliable mentor and role model."


Another popular idol-actress, Suzy, was roped in to sing the program’s theme song, With Full Speed. The song was introduced on June 12 as the background music for the show’s Brand Film.

R U Next? will be released on June 30, 2023, at 8:50 pm KST on JTBC.

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Edited by Dev Sharma
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