SEOUL -- Two main producers of Mnet, a popular TV music channel that played a crucial role in discovering talented K-pop artists, received prison sentences for rigging votes to form X1, a project body band that debuted through a music audition show in 2019. The vote-rigging scandal triggered widespread anger among fans, prompting Mnet to overhaul popular audition programs.
Kim Yong-bum, the executive producer of Produce X 101, a boy group survival reality show, and its producer and director Ahn Jun-young were found guilty of rigging votes cast by fans in favor of particular contestants in the last live contest when some unexpected figures were included in the debut group.
A criminal court in Seoul sentenced Ahn to two years in prison, along with the collection of 37 million won ($29,890), while Kim was given a jail term of 20 months. An assistant producer and five entertainment company officials were slapped with a fine of up to 10 million won on charges of collusion.
"The defendant's responsibility is never light in that (Ahn) actively participated in the manipulation of rankings as the main producer," the court said in its verdict. Kim and Ahn were arrested in November last year.
Produce 101 of Mnet run by CJ E&M, a key distributor and exporter of Hallyu (Korean cultural wave) in Asia, has been a preferred stage for trainees who wish to become a K-pop idol. Viewers choose 11 members out of 101 trainees from different entertainment companies and independent trainees through online and live voting with multiple elimination rounds.
Produce 101 has produced project bands such as I.O.I, Wanna One and Iz One. Through Produce X 101, the fourth season of Mnet's Produce 101 franchise, X1 debuted in August 2019, but the band was dismantled later.
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