One of the more significant concerns for the third season of the popular TV audition program Produce 48 was based on the fact that Korean and Japanese idol production systems are naturally different, coming from two completely different cultures.
As the show premiered and some of the Korean and Japanese trainees revealed their first stage performances against each other, viewers realized there is an undeniable gap in the skill levels among the contestants.
While Korean trainees mostly found their ways into groups A, B, and C, a large majority of the Japanese trainees was identified as groups D and F.
The judges remained unimpressed with these Japanese idols and evaluated them by K-Pop standards.
The Japanese contestants slowly became aware of the drastic skill gap.
Contestants from Japan discussed among themselves that such skill gaps are from the differences in the training system.
“We debut after a month of training…” — Tomu Muto
“It’s not like we learn the basics before debuting either. We don’t go through any vocal training.” — Ayana Shinozaki
Judge Lee Hong Ki had a deeper understanding of this too.
“You know how for Korean trainees, once they sign their traineeship with an agency, the agency provides all kinds of vocal and dance classes? For Japanese trainees, it’s not like that. They have to learn things on their own. The two countries have such drastically different systems when it comes to producing ‘idols’ and training them.” — Lee Hong Ki
When another judge, Bae Yoon Jeong, confronted the Japanese trainees about the issue at hand, the trainees finally got the chance to explain.
“You’re aware that in K-Pop, the group choreography is really important and emphasized, right? Is ‘dancing in sync’ not that important in the Japanese idol scene?” — Bae Yoon Jeong
According to the Japanese trainees, the Japanese idol industry is focused around the idols’ abilities to “entertain”, which is not limited to singing and dancing.
“We focus more on being cute than dancing well.”
“In Japan, being an idol is more about having fun and showing that.”
“Some members don’t sing and dance as well but still are very popular.”
Everyone on the show realized the cultural difference is a huge aspect playing into the skill differences.
“Watching the Japanese trainees is like seeing a whole new world for me.” — Soyou
The judges encouraged the Japanese trainees to work hard, even if they have to start their way up from Group F.
“Someone in season 1 started from group F and made it all the way to the debuting team. Since you’re here in Korea, you might as well learn a thing or two about group dancing. Good luck.” — Bae Yoon Jeong
“The Korean trainers will help you improve so that you can get to Group A.” — Lee Hong Ki
Viewers are torn between being understanding of the cultural differences and being critical about natural talent regardless to the system.
“Cultural difference, yeah right. If you want to be a K-Pop idol, work like one. Korean trainees are talented at singing and dancing while being fun and entertaining. Stop whining.”
“I felt bad for these girls, but this journey is not an end! They will improve. Ahh I got teary eyed.”
“I hope we can all understand and accept each other’s cultures. Koreans probably have a hard time promoting in Japan because of this difference too… Everyone deserves to be loved.”
“They can keep calling it a cultural difference but in the end, it is clearly because of the lack of talent. Singers should sing well.”
“If the japan girls want to join this show, why did they not practice well beforehand? It’s not like they never watched a single K-Pop song and dance. Disappointed that they were not well prepared. At the very least, be in sync when dancing, that is the least you can do TBH.”
“They came here for training since this program is Korean program they should follow and listen Korean producers. Of course they were happy in japan even they are not professional because most of them are not professional and their fandoms are like it. If you don’t like strict training and want to stay in amateur? Go back to Japan and be happy in there.”
With all issues aside, Produce 48 is steadily gaining regular viewers as more trainees get prepared to perform and compete on stage.
Here is a group of Japanese trainees and a group of Korean trainees perform the same song. See how the cultural differences in the idol production systems impacted these trainees: