As it started airing on 10 December 2021, “MAMA THE IDOL” is already seeing favorable reviews and ratings. Also known as “Mama is an idol”, “Mom is an idol” and “EommaneunAidol”, the show didn’t only become famous for its unique structure but also for the fact that this show opened a doorway for all those women who left behind their careers for their kids.
"MAMA THE IDOL" describes itself as a comeback project of legendary moms who were stars but had to leave due to childbirth and childcare. The special criteria for participating in the show was motherhood. Only mothers can part take in the competition. Altogether there are six mothers who were once idols, singers, and actresses but had to halt their careers due to childbirth and childcare yet want to debut again. But in order to debut again, they need to carry out several missions to show people that they have still got it. To prove that, they need to gather 2,000 fan club members along with 20,000 followers on social media. They will receive training again to become a K-pop girl group of the 4th generation. Hong Jin Kyung, Do Kyung Wan, Lee Chan Won, and WOODZ (Cho SeungYoun) will be appearing as helpers who will aid in bringing these stars back to the stage.
The six potential lineups for the show which was revealed in the first two episodes are Sunye of ‘Wonder Girls’, Kahi of ‘After School’, Park Jung-ah of ‘Jewelry’, Yang Eun-Ji of ‘Baby V.O.X’, as well as ballad singer Byul and actress Hyun Jyu-Ni. They were all popular artists in the early 2000s but retired to form a new family as mothers and wives. For Sunye and Kahi, who live abroad with their families, participating in this project was not an easy decision. Although they had been away from the stage for quite a long time, many viewers welcomed their comeback on the small screen as they are still engraved in the public's memory. It is interesting to see these amazing women facing these challenges to break the norms revolving around idols being young to be famous.
Sunye of Wonder Girls
Wonder Girls are considered to have established K-pop girl groups as we know them today, as well as popularized the signature catchy and bubbly tunes of the genre through its megahit "Tell Me" (2007). Min Sun-Ye or Sunye was the charismatic leader and the main vocalist of the JYPE girl group Wonder Girls from 2007 to 2014. Her wonderful deep angelic vocals have been popular in every nook of the music industry. Sunye was the very first Korean singer to enter the Billboard Hot 100 and also has a record of being in 1st place on music shows 40 times during 5 years of activities. Sunye moved to Canada after getting married in 2013 and had three beautiful daughters. Through “MAMA THE IDOL”, Sunye got the chance to be in the spotlight after a total of eight years. When asked how it feels to stand on stage after a long time, Sunye said, “I was so nervous and it seems like 50,000 different emotions were mixed. After getting married and spending time focusing on my family, 8 years had passed.”
Kahi of After School
Park Ji-young, better known as Kahi was one of the most recognised singers, dancers, and actresses of the South Korean entertainment industry. She is the former leader of the group After School and has produced many hits along with a successful solo career. She has also acted as a judge and dance trainer and was well-known for her stage charisma and powerful aura. After leaving behind her love for music and dance in 2012, she focused on her personal life by tying a knot with a businessman, moved to Bali, and now is a mother of two sons. After 10 years, Kahi remarks that the stage of “MAMA THE IDOL” is probably her last chance on stage and to live her dreams.
Park Jung Ah of Jewelry
Park Jung Ah was the lead vocalist of the first generation girl group Jewelry, best known for its legendary hits "Super Star" (2005) and "One More Time" (2008). She was one of the most charismatic and skillful performers of the timeline, and her fabulous teamwork made the group reach the peak of success. She left the stage a long time ago and focused on her personal life, and now is a mother of one daughter. Through this show, she made her stage come back after twelve years and all her fans out there are flaunted with the news. She was the first performer in the first episode of the show and the nervousness was there. Being away from the stage and cameras for so long made her really stressed backstage. Nonetheless, she performed really well and got really good compliments from everyone.
Yang Ji Eun of Baby V.O.X
Baby V.O.X was one of the first major girl groups of K-pop formed in 1997 and are the pioneers of the Hallyu Wave, being one of the first groups to branch out of South Korea by grabbing the Chinese market. Despite being briefly active between 2007 and 2009, Yang Ji Eun received much attention as the revival of 90s girl group Baby V.O.X. “MAMA THE IDOL” marked Ji Eun's return to TV for the first time in 13 years. She revealed, "I married early and was a mom before I realized it. Then I had my second and third, and all of a sudden, I'd been living as a mom for 12-years." Yang Ji Eun also shared that her daughter, who is in 5th grade, often teases her past videos of her idol days. And Ji Eun wants to prove to her daughter that she still has what it takes to shine on stage.
Ballad singer Byul
Byul was a popular ballad singer JYP Entertainment and also is the wife of television personality Ha Dong-hoon, better known as Haha. Regarding her decision to appear on the program, Byul revealed, "During my first pregnancy, I thought, I'll recover quickly after my first so I can go back to being a singer. But then, suddenly, we were having our second and third children and didn’t get the chance anymore." Despite returning to the stage for the first time in approximately 9 years, Byul wowed the judges and audience members with her graceful vocals.
Actress Hyun Joo-Ni
Hyun Joo-ni is a rock singer and actress who has appeared in many popular K-dramas and films, most notably "Descendants of the Sun" and “Iris”. Jyu Ni debuted as a member of the four-member female rock band "Bella Mafia", which released its first album ‘Overstep’ in 2008. TV director Lee Jae Gyu spotted her in the musical Bandits and cast her as a flutist in his television series "Beethoven Virus". Jyu Ni married an entrepreneur on 13 December 2012, in a private ceremony held in Guam and gave birth to their first child on 30 July 2013.
As female fans who loved them at the peak of their popularity have grown older too and are likely to be mothers themselves today, “MAMA THE IDOL” is receiving much more support from them. Many of them also may have halted or ended their careers because of childcare. So it's natural for them to become emotionally invested in the female stars' attempts to resume their careers and gain a sense of vicarious satisfaction. According to a report by Statistics Korea released in November, 1.45 million women quit their jobs during the first half of 2021, and 65% of them cited childbirth and childcare for their decisions to do so.
“MAMA THE IDOL” sheds light on how even female K-pop idols cannot avoid career interruptions caused by marriage and motherhood. To support them on their journey watch the show on TvN or Dramacool.
* Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 10th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka