K-pop fans brace for the launch of BTS's successor

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K-pop fans brace for the launch of BTS's successor

Seven members of Enhypen, clockwise from top left: Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Niki, Jungwon and Sunoo. [BELIFT LAB]

Seven members of Enhypen, clockwise from top left: Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Niki, Jungwon and Sunoo. [BELIFT LAB]

 
As BTS continues to rock the K-pop scene, its agency Big Hit Entertainment is readying for the launch of yet another boy band to follow its legacy.
 
Enhypen, a seven-member boy band, will debut as the winning group of cable channel Mnet’s audition program “I-LAND” that started earlier this year in collaboration with Big Hit Entertainment and Belift Lab — a company co-founded by Mnet’s operator CJ ENM and Big Hit Entertainment. "I-LAND" began on June 26 and the first part of the show finished on July 31, where 12 contestants out of the initial 23 made it to the second part of the show. The second part began on Aug. 14 and was aired live through Mnet and Big Hit Entertainment's official YouTube channel. Some 650,000 people tuned in from around the world, in part to see BTS cheer the trainees on.
 
The final episode aired on Sept. 18 and saw a final competition round with nine trainees. Seven made it to the group: Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Niki, Jungwon and Sunoo.
 
Contrary to Mnet’s past audition shows, which mainly focused on each trainee’s musical talents, “I-LAND” focused on their background stories — commonly referred to as universe, like the Marvel universe — to show the boys’ journey toward their debut. Rather than just testing their dance and vocal skills, “I-LAND” tested their skills as human beings; meaning they were tested on their teamwork, decision-making and communication skills. “I-LAND” offered a space for the hopefuls to hatch into musicians.
 
From the very first episode, trainees were required to vote each other out of “I-LAND.” Some viewers said the process was “too cruel," but the producers of the program explained in a press conference held prior to the first episode that it was a way to prepare the potential members for a group dispute that will inevitably come in the future.
 
Member of Enhypen embrace each other in the last episode of "I-LAND." [BELIFT LAB]

Member of Enhypen embrace each other in the last episode of "I-LAND." [BELIFT LAB]

 
Although the TV program itself did not score as high as expected compared to the other K-pop idol audition programs launched by Mnet in the past, the hype for Enhypen is much higher now that the debut members have been finalized.
 
Videos of the first 11 episodes of “I-LAND” posted on various platforms including YouTube have accumulated 34 million views, and after the final episode was uploaded, the viewership count amounted to 186 million views as of Sept. 19. The group’s Twitter account garnered over 710,000 followers just two days after being activated. On Saturday, Enhypen launched its first social media account, posting a trailer video of the members for the first time.
 
“We were able to debut as Enhypen thanks to all the love we received from everyone,” the members said in the video. “We promise to become the Enhypen that can bring joy to everyone who cheered us on.”
 
Enhypen will make its debut within this year, although no date has been set yet. But seeing that it took Wanna One, the resulting band from the second season of Mnet’s “Produce” audition series, two months to debut in August 2017 after the program wrapped up and took girl group I.O.I a month after its appearance on the same program, it’s expected to take a similar amount of time before Enhypen officially kicks off its schedules as a band.
 
Enhypen will be the first band to debut under Belift Lab, with more expected to come in the future.
 
BY YOON SO-YEON    [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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