You’ve put me through yet another emotional roller coaster and I’m still reeling.
In my years with you, you have brought a great deal of joy and talent into my life, but all of that has not come without strife. There have been plenty of moments to lament over the course of my viewing, but most have come during Produce 48 in particular. Most importantly, there are plenty of girls who have been forgotten in that chase to the final twelve.
And now that we have that final twelve, I believe it’s time for an ode to all the girls we’ve lost in the process — or, at least, the ones I care about.
#79 CNC Hong Yeji
It’s difficult to advocate for someone who was given so little screen time, but Yeji caught my attention during the bit that she had. Some may find this strange because she admittedly faded into the background during her only mission performance.
The thing is, her voice was an instant draw. It was unique and memorable. So I had to advocate for her, even if her stage presence wasn’t all the way there yet. I assumed she had time to improve!
What’s strange is that MNET seemed to want to convince us that she did have time. The most screen time she received was during the first elimination, which gave viewers the impression that she was bound to make the cut-off. Why focus on her otherwise?
Cruelty. That’s why.
Immediate Prospects: Red. Yeji was initially a Fantagio trainee and was shipped off to CNC, an acting academy when things went to shit over there. She’s presumably not receiving any sort of idol training at CNC, and therefore has no prospects at all. Poor girl.
#60 Wellmade Yedang Hwang Soyeon
Soyeon’s elimination should have prepared me for the savagery that was to come in later episodes, but I simply thought she was a fluke — a tragic sacrifice to the screen time gods.
Nothing about her low rank made sense. She made a splash in the first episode, dubbed a Sunmi clone with stellar dance skills, and proceeded to be awarded an A rank. And not only that, but she maintained that rank. So, dear viewers who didn’t vote for her: what else did she have to do to gain your favor?
She was by no means a perfect performer, but her charisma was off the charts. If anything, her flaws came from the fact that she was overeager — too immersed in her performance to realize she was mouthing lines that weren’t hers. And besides, wasn’t that a tiny bit adorable?
Soyeon ultimately fell victim to the very first elimination, which was more than a little egregious for an A class member. She went largely unnoticed, and, as such, largely unmourned. But something tells me she would have given some spectacular performances if she’d been able to go on. I mean, hello — she would have killed any of the dance evaluations!
Immediate Prospects: Green. Almost immediately after her elimination, Soyeon switched allegiances and signed to MNH Entertainment. The company is currently most known for housing I.O.I member and soloist Kim Chungha. But, most importantly, they’ve announced plans to debut a girl group in the immediate future. It’s pretty easy to conclude that Soyeon will be a part of it.
#53 MND17 Park Minji
Minji was one of the returning fixtures from Produce 101 but did not experience the surge in screen time or fandom that fellow returnee Kim Sihyun did. This was especially unfortunate because of her incredible voice.
One could say that Minji simply had disastrous luck on Produce 48. Her peak came alongside Han Chowon’s, who turned their cover of Heize’s “Don’t Know You” into a star-making moment. Minji was effectively overshadowed at the point in time when she could least afford to fade into the background. By the next elimination, she was gone, and it was as if her talents had gone completely unnoticed.
To be fair, MNET did give Minji a proper puff piece. She just didn’t catch on in the way that Sihyun did. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have the right visuals. Maybe she wasn’t instantly charismatic or memorable.
But I will accept none of these reasonable explanations because she was perfect, dammit!
Immediate Prospects: Orange. MND17 is due to debut a girl group next year with Minji, according to Minji herself. However, this will be their first crack at a group, and we all know the nugu struggle.
#50 A Team Kim Choyeon
Oh, Choyeon. You deserved better than MNET reducing you to an intense stare.
To start with, Choyeon was pitted against Blockberry Creative’s Go Yujin during auditions. They’d both chosen the same song to perform, and Choyeon was the clear winner of the two. She seemed to have it all — the vocals, the dance moves, and the ability to draw an audience in. It was almost as if…MNET was giving someone a proper edit.
We all should have known it wasn’t going to last.
Choyeon was pretty much reduced to a laugh track. Nothing was more interesting than the fact that she didn’t blink! What a revelation. All of MNET’s editing antics distracted from the fact that she was easily one of the hardest working trainees on the show. Arguably, only Chaeyeon rivaled her in that regard. She choreographed, she sang, she tried her hand at being a center. And in the end, she was berated for being too intense or taking too much charge.
Am I on glue, or is that not a good thing?
For me, Choyeon was the Chungha of this go-around of Produce. She was the no-brainer pick from the nugu company, the diamond in the rough. You instantly knew that if she made it into the group, she was going to give you incredible performances from beginning to end.
And yet, look at her rank. It’s criminal.
Immediate Prospects: Orange. As far as anyone knows, Choyeon is currently the only female trainee signed to A Team. If the company does survive nugudom and ultimately debuts a girl group, she’ll still be waiting a long time for that to happen. And let’s not even get into whether or not the group will be successful…
#48 MNH Lee Haeun
There’s always a middle school wunderkind on these survival shows. Haeun was it. And we’ve all learned from past experiences: the middle school wunderkind never makes it. Yet, I deluded myself, as I always do.
It’s tough to come onto Produce as Chungha’s junior. The expectations placed on you from the start are massive. But Haeun was never bothered by them, never deterred. She knew how talented she was. Don’t you wish you were that confident at her age?
For all her confidence — just right, short of full-on bravado — the show never capitalized on her obviously massive personality. Instead, she was just portrayed as somewhat anal and oversensitive. And why, because she knew what she wanted? Again, don’t you wish you knew what you wanted at her age? Why, because she knew how to take charge?
You know what I’m going to ask at this point.
I, like many people, find myself in a moral dilemma when considering whether girls as young as Haeun should be debuting. The K-Pop industry, as with any media business, is dog eat dog. More than that, idols are heavily oversexualized and intensely exploited. So maybe it was best that Haeun got passed over this time.
But damn, she seemed ready for it.
Immediate Prospects: Orange. Though MNH has announced a girl group, they have also explicitly stated that Haeun is too young to be a part of it. She’ll have at least a couple more years to hone her skills. At the end of all that, she’ll undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with. The question is whether or not she’s willing to wait for her chance in the spotlight. And, considering MNH’s new group will be its first ever, there’s no telling if they’ll manage it well enough to inspire a desire for future ones.
#40 AKB48 Iwatate Saho
Saho was the “who’s that?” trainee for me — the girl in episode one whom I was desperate to get to know because she caught my eye instantly. That probably makes me biased, because she may very well be the least interesting contestant on this list. She never had a moment of real triumph, but in my defense, she was also never given the chance to have one.
MNET’s editing of Saho didn’t exactly endear us to any immediate talents or particularly spectacular traits. Saho’s storyline essentially revolved around having spent a career in the shadows of AKB48’s more formidable members. Everything came down to her being pathetic, which felt like a strange choice. She was so darn cute and charismatic! It was pretty easy to see why she’d ended up in AKB in the first place. Still, her portrayal never capitalized on that.
Her biggest mistake was volunteering for the center position in “High Tension”. The storyline for the battle quickly became Japanese versus Korean, expected versus fresh and new. Saho was touted as the boring choice when put up against Pledis’s Heo Yunjin, and her confidence suffered for it. She survived another elimination but didn’t receive sufficient attention thereafter.
Unfortunately, Saho was always presented as a foil rather than a complete person all on her own. She was never going to end up in the group. That’s already infuriating enough, but what most aggravates me was that surely she had way more to show.
Immediate Prospects: Green. Saho has largely experienced an upward trend in her AKB election rankings, ascending from one group to the next each time. This past election, she ranked on the upper end of the Undergirls. Next stop, Senbatsu!
#31 Blockberry Creative Go Yujin
As a LOONA fan, the fact that anyone from Blockberry Creative was making an appearance piqued my interest. So maybe Yujin had a head start in my heart from the very beginning. You could say that’s unfair, except…she delivered. One hundred percent.
She didn’t necessarily have the vocal talent, which the first episode let you know immediately. But that dancing? That stage presence? Those alluring qualities of a siren? They were present. They were out there. Yujin did not come to play with any of us mere mortals.
What’s most infuriating about Yujin is that it actually felt like MNET was on my side where she was concerned! Her entire arc revolved around the idea that the best had yet to come from her. And, indeed, her best showing was probably from practice for a song she didn’t actually get to perform.
Yujin just barely missed the cut-off for the second to last elimination, and every international fan wept salty tears at that revelation. She was going to be a killer center in Rumor. In the end, it felt like all of her potential went to waste.
She wasn’t perfect, but she was more perfect than any of us could ever dream to be.
Immediate Prospects: Orange. Perhaps you’ve heard of a group called LOONA. Yujin was unfortunately not selected to become a member, leaving her in limbo with the rest of the rejected lot that we’ve been told resides in the BBC basement. While some optimistic folks believe she’ll be added to the group, such a choice would negate LOONA’s entire pre-debut concept. More likely than not, Yujin will be waiting for her time with the rest. But, at least, she’ll obviously be at the top of BBC’s list for next time. In the meantime, she’s gotten some solo promotions here and there.
#28 Yuehua Wang Yiren
We have to talk about Yiren’s introduction. That. Front handspring. Into the split. In her audition. She may not have sung much or really done anything else. But it didn’t matter. Because of that front handspring into the split.
She then proved herself to be an eye-catching center, because of course. She’s cute as a freaking button. The problem with Yiren was that she was never assertive. Sure, she was granted chances to be center pretty easily, but she rarely displayed any sort of fight.
Now, this isn’t to say she had to, or that she didn’t care about whether she made it into the group or not. Actually, it seemed like Yiren cared an awful lot. The problem was that she wasn’t particularly reactionary and instead grew more introverted after being criticized.
Yiren’s initial popularity is probably what did her in. She started off strong in the rankings, only for her edit to focus on how she wasn’t good enough or didn’t try hard enough. MNET created drama where there was none. And, quite frankly, the mentors treated her horribly. They called her a terrible singer and dancer, berated for simply having an off day or two. She was sensitive and easily discouraged. But, oh man, when you got her on stage, she was on.
The truth of the matter is, she was one of the most entrancing contestants of all. She may not have been the best performer on stage, but you lost sight of who that even was because you were staring at her the entire time. And that’s incredibly important to have in an idol group.
Immediate Prospects: Green. The rumor mill reports that Yiren has most likely left Yuehua. Which, you know, probably wouldn’t be a good thing in most cases. But regardless of where she ends up, she will almost certainly be prepared to dominate the Chinese market. Which means she’ll be richer than all of us soon enough. Bless her heart.
#27 Yuehua Kim Sihyun
Even though Sihyun was a ways off from making it into IZ*ONE, she was perhaps the biggest success story of the show. She entered Produce 101 as an independent trainee who was mostly remembered for fighting with Nayoung and Mina about choreography. But she blossomed on Produce 48, proving that a little bit of training will do any girl some good.
Sihyun was one of those blessed all-rounders most groups could only dream of. On a survival show, though, it’s difficult to sell the whole jack of all trades thing. MNET will easily turn that into a master of none edit.
Which is exactly what happened. Sihyun was on the rise, poised to end up in the finale. And then…she got a center role. And it all went to shit. Suddenly, she wasn’t good enough to be in a starring part; she simply became a part of the scenery. But…wasn’t MNET toting her as a new and improved version of the girl we’d seen before two seconds ago? What kind of whiplash is that?
Sihyun was a perfectly fine center. But framing is everything, and her ranking suffered for it. It was incredible to see how much she’d grown in two years. It would have been even more incredible to see her for two and a half more.
Immediate Prospects: Orange. Sihyun is a Korean trainee signed to Yuehua. No one has any idea what that means yet, considering they haven’t done much of anything with their Korean trainees. If their relationship with Starship sours during this never-ending WJSN drama, that will certainly damage their professional prospects in the Korean market — which will place Sihyun and all of Yuehua’s other Korean trainees in the middle of a shitstorm. Also, she has to wait for Yena to come back from IZ*ONE. So. There’s that.
#13 Cube Han Chowon
I need a moment to wipe my tears. This one still hurts like a bitch.
I watched the finale after most people I knew did, and they withheld any information about two girls for my own benefit: Chaeyeon and my precious princess Chowon. They knew that I thought those were the two contestants who deserved to make it into the group the most. They’d worked hard and made a concerted effort to show as many sides of themselves as possible. Most importantly, they were just insanely talented. But Chowon. Her voice. Her voice.
The reasonable side of myself knew that Chowon might have peaked too early with “Don’t Know You”. That side also knew that getting her into the group was a lot to ask.
Really, I would have taken Chowon ranking lower a lot better. But instead, my worst nightmare happened. It was Chowon or Chaeyeon in the end. Neither could live while the other survived.
I’d honestly take watching The Exorcist on a loop for the rest of my life before subjecting myself to the Produce 48 finale again. The residual chest pains are enough.
Chowon is going to be one of the best idol vocalists out there, IZ*ONE or not. She has the chops now, let alone a few years down the line. She’s so young, and yet so hard-working. She led what was perhaps the most unmotivated group of contestants I’ve ever seen on Produce to a passable performance. She took a bullet and rapped, for goodness’ sake. She helped the girl who took the main vocalist position she wanted.
I need to stop spiraling. The point is, she has the chops now. Why can’t I just have her now?
Immediate Prospects: Red. Have you begun to stan Rookies of the Year (G)I-DLE like the rest of the world? Cube has gone all in on their new prized show ponies, which leaves very little room for even considering what will become of Chowon. Quite frankly, her being sent to Produce in the first place only solidifies the fact that they have no immediate plans for her. Of course, they could just add her to (G)I-DLE. Because that always ends well for everyone involved.
More likely than not, Chowon will be residing in Cube’s dungeon until they deduce a use for her — which will probably take years. It pains me to see all that talent go to waste, but at least she has time to go to some 1MILLION dance classes! I mean…please, Chowon. Please.
What is most concerning about Chowon’s future is that I get the impression that Cube doesn’t necessarily understand what they have with her, or what her strengths are. Don’t we all remember her Produce audition? Don’t we all remember how we felt when she explained she’s a classical music major?
There are some growing pains to sort through on both sides, but hopefully, that sorting will happen sooner rather than later. Produce’s very first #13 didn’t fare so well in the immediate aftermath of the show — and even now, still has not. Chowon doesn’t deserve that sort of fate.
Now that I’ve had my emotional outburst, share yours! Which Produce 48 trainees are you still writing love letters to months down the line? Let’s commiserate in our misery, friends.