“An unknown place completely isolated from the outside. Those who dream of being an idol can grow on their own and break out of their eggs, it is a perfect and evolved space for survival competition that has been designed for a long time. This system provides everything but contestants have to break out of their eggs and get out into the real world.” These are the things (host and a famous actor) Namgoong Min said at the beginning of the first episode of a survival reality competition show ‘I-LAND’.
Some of the biggest K-Pop groups today were formed on reality competition shows, like TWICE, Stray Kids, and Monsta X, so on 26 June 2020, when Big Hit Entertainment and CJENM premiered a new reality competition series called I-LAND, fans were pumped to see the world's next big super group formed from start to finish. The show follows a group of trainees as they aim to land a spot in a new Big Hit boy group. The series will show you the ins and outs of what it takes to be a real K-Pop idol. By keeping up with the trainees from the very beginning, you'll be able to say you were there from day one, once the guys all get famous.
I-Land also promises expert mentoring from a perfect range of mentors. Not only Bang Si-hyuk (the creator of BTS) the co-CEO of Big Hit, there is also one of the K-pop industry’s first international star Rain, as well as the chart-topping producer-singer Zico. The range of knowledge they bring from business, performance, and production viewpoints are already impressive. Jung Hyung Jin (former Managing Director at CJENM) stated, “While I watched how K-pop artists are developing, there was something I wondered about. I thought about what the next generation of K-pop idols will look like.”
The 23 participants are transported to a complex located in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a luscious green forest, for a total of 113 days. The participants will not only receive singing and dancing lessons, but they will also live in the 3-floor complex, which features living spaces like the living room, kitchen, gym, item room, dance studio, individual practice rooms, medical center, and many more. However, only 12 contestants can stay there.
The remaining 11 will be on the “Ground”, which is a simple building with a dance studio and dining area, and the trainees assigned to the Ground do not live there, still, they have to commute to and from the building every day at set times. The two sections are connected through a gate and a stage, where their skills will be tested. A key part of the concept is that the participants’ votes play a heavy role in the show, as they decide through voting who will stay in I-Land and who will go down to the Ground.
The space of I-Land was developed after three years of architectural planning and construction, with a total budget of 20 billion won invested in the production. A massive dedicated complex has been built especially for the show in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
The name 'I-LAND' is speculated to symbolise the "The world of Idols" and somewhat amplifies the intensity and angst of a survival program. Starting in March 2019, the first round of auditions was held in Seoul before moving to the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and other major centers in search of potential male trainees born between 1997 and 2008. Categories included rapping, dancing, singing, acting, and modeling.
Through many tests, I-Landers wrote their own story of growth in I-land Part 1. However, the number of participants became 12 from 23 in part 1. From 171 countries around the world, more than 20 million viewers are cheering on their dreams together. Since 12 participants in I-land part 2 is focused on debut, it was a complete individual competition. The top producers in Korea and the global viewers will decide who must leave.
Some of the trainees are from outside of Korea. Like K and Ni-Ki are Japanese, Hanbin is Vietnamese, Jay is American, Jake is Australian, Daniel is Korean-American and the other four, Heeseung, Sunghoon, Sunoo and Jungwon is South Korean. There are 10 participants left till now. And now, out of 10 of them, the final number of people that will debut as an Idol group is only 7. So, three participants have to be eliminated.
“When you feel like you can do it, tackle it, and grab onto it. Then find your own thing and once you do, your confidence will grow. I think that’s how you’ll be able to grow,” said Jungkook of BTS when they visited I-land. BTS members helped the participants with their concerns and gave useful advice to energize them. They also left heartfelt messages and gifts for the I-landers with their personalised signatures.
After BTS, four members (Hoshi, Jun, The8, and Dino) from the famous group ‘SEVENTEEN’ also visited I-land to explain to the contestants how to toss off their choreography. The contestants showed off their practice as the senior group gave thoughtful advice to the contestants. Hoshi encourages the trainees as he says, “Be shameless! Be entertaining! Let’s go!” Hoshi continues to yell, “Give us that explosive energy!” The contestants of I-Land seem excited as well as the Seventeen fans who watch the show.
Recently I-Land raised four spots to the top of the list of most buzzworthy non-dramas for the week, following BTS’s appearance in the August 14 episode. The show’s buzzworthy rating went up 110.47 percent compared to the previous week.
The contestants are making their way closer to debuting as they take one step at a time. The last episode of I-Land will be on 18 September 2020. Last global audience vote to choose the final seven applicants is set to begin. Six debut members will be selected by the global audience vote, with the final member chosen by the producers. Choose your favorite I-Lander and send them on their way to debut! You can vote for one applicant per day on Weverse app. And also you can watch this show on websites like Rakuten Viki, Dramacool, and Dailymotion.
Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 9th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka