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Will K-popsters Wanna One’s Live Broadcast Controversy End Their Careers?

We’re talking even before their official disbandment at the end of this year.

Here’s more proof that K-pop idols aren’t as flawless and blameless as they appear to be. Members of K-pop group Wanna One got into serious trouble when their #nofilter remarks were accidentally aired live, after the livestream had started earlier than scheduled. What ensued was a display of very un-K-pop behaviour by the members who were behaving cockily, cussing, complaining and making lewd remarks. What’s the big deal, you ask? In K-popdom, image is everything, especially for this (previously) squeaky-clean group, made up of the 11 winners of the second season of reality show Produce 101. Less than a year into their debut, Wanna One morphed into one of K-pop’s most shining acts and been dubbed the “Nation’s Boy Group”. But now, the incident has left the group’s perfect image in shatters.

The video was taken while the members were preparing for a live broadcast on Mnet’s Star Live. What was meant to be locker room talk became fodder for public skewering. Unaware that the live broadcast had accidentally started earlier than scheduled, the boys were uninhibited with their banter. It began with work grouses (stars, they’re just like us). Kang Daniel, aka the most popular member of the lot, shouted, “Why haven’t we been paid yet?” “King of Aegyo” Park Jihoon added: “Why are we only getting 20 per cent [of our earnings]?” Ong Seungwu, known as the face of the group, groused: “Why can’t we sleep?” while Jihoon said, “Why are our schedules so packed?”

There was also the occasional schoolboy rampage. “I took a dump this morning!” one of the members hollered when a female staff member told the boys to get ready for the live broadcast, while another was eager to flaunt his cussing abilities when he declared: “I better curse now before going on air” and went on to drop several F-bombs. Fans even got a bonus when Jihoon said, “I’m going to reveal my phone number”. Yes, he actually did it and urged fans to “call me”.

That’s not all. The boys clearly had a lot to vent, especially when it came to anti-fans. Sixteen-year-old Taiwanese member Lai Kuanlin called out the license plate number of a sasaeng (Korean for ‘stalker’) fan, saying, “Sorento (the make of the car), what were you doing below our home yesterday? Stop coming to our house.” Some netizens claimed that they heard a member yelling “Dae-ddal-gak” while another chimed in reply, “Only the pretty ones”. “Dae-ddal-gak” is a vulgar Korean term for a sexual act. When one of the members asked, “Why are there saseangs?”, someone was heard to have replied, “Free handjobs.”

Following the broadcast, the boys received brutal backlash. Disappointed Wannables, as their fans are known, turned their backs on them faster than it takes you to watch a, ahem, ‘Boomerang’. The members were also slammed for having no respect by making those comments in front of the several female senior staff. Others have called for the group’s early disbandment (FYI: As a project group, Wanna One will disband on Dec 31 when their contract ends). One netizen echoed the sentiment of many when she said: “Now you guys can sleep all you want!” However, some have spoken up for the boys, using the “boys will be boys” cliché and saying that the members were just joking around and even the staffers could be seen laughing along with them.

Of course, what’s a controversy without a conspiracy theory or two? Some netizens have speculated that the broadcast wasn’t “a mistake” as broadcaster Mnet claims, but that the staff had deliberately leaked it to expose the boys’ true colours. Wanna One has since released an official statement apologising “for showing a bad side of us and disappointing our fans”, adding that they will “work hard to become a mature and modest Wanna One who’s always cautious about all of our actions”. So, they’re sorry for getting caught?

UPDATE: You have got to give it to fans of Sungwoon. Wanting to prove that their idol was innocent, they sent the audio recording to the Digital Forensic Laboratory which analyses digital material. The results shared on March 22 found that Sungwoon didn’t swear or use a sexual term. What netizens (anti-fans?) claimed were the comment “I’d better swear in advance” was in fact “I’d better say this in advance”. The report also found that the sounds which were allegedly swear words were actually static noise. While some netizens claimed that he had said a vulgar sexual term “Dae ddal gak”, it appears that what he had said was “Answer me.” Sungwoon’s fans said they would file a report of cyber defamation, using the results as evidence.

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