Was Lee Hae In unfairly eliminated from 'Idol School'? Investigation confirms vote-rigging allegations

Chief producer of 'Idol School', Kim Tae Eun, thought Lee Hae In did not fit in with the overall vibe of the debut group


                            Was Lee Hae In unfairly eliminated from 'Idol School'? Investigation confirms vote-rigging allegations
Lee Hae In (YouTube/Sony Music Korea)

The chief producer of Idol School has been sentenced to one year in prison on June 10, following a protracted investigation into vote-rigging allegations against several of Mnet's survival shows. While justice has been delivered, one Idol School contestant, Lee Hae In, 26, will never be able to reclaim what she has lost, for no fault of her own.

The controversy is the latest scandal to rock the world of Kpop and K-drama. There have been unsavory exposes like this, one after another, of late. Yesterday, on Jun 10, 'Stairway to Heaven' actress Choi Ji Woo's private information was leaked to seek revenge for the recent row surrounding Han Ye-seul. A week ago, there were rumors that Han Ye-seul's boyfriend, theater actor Ryu Sung-jae, was an escort. Before that KeyEast's Ji Soo's contract was terminated amidst a bullying and sexual harassment scandal.

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'Idol School' CP Kim Tae Eun and the planning and production team leader, also named Kim, were sentenced on June 10 in Seoul Central District Court. Tae Eun was sentenced to a year in prison, and the planning and production team leader was fined 10 million won ($8,965) for aiding and abetting the crime.

Lee Hae In (YouTube/Sony Music Korea)

Was Lee Hae In unfairly eliminated?

Lee Hae In (who previously ranked 17th on Produce 101) was one of the most popular competitors from the beginning of Idol School, a reality female group survival show which attempts to establish a 9-member girl group out of 41 female participants by teaching them how to sing and dance.

She even placed first overall in episode one and remained in the top two for several weeks. Hae In's position decreased rapidly and abruptly from episode five onwards. She was entirely out of the top nine rankings by episode six, and she was eventually eliminated.

Netizens organized a petition at the time, demanding the truth about why Lee Hae In, then 23, didn't make it into girl group Fromis 9, according to Koreaboo. Hae In informed MBC's PD Note in a 2019 exposé that she was kicked from the show because the producers had already decided on the lineup for the girl group regardless of the final results. A police probe into Mnet's vote-rigging is now underway.

Lee Hae In (YouTube/Sony Music Korea)

When the Seoul Central District Court sentenced Kim Tae Eun, the chief producer of Idol School, to a year in prison yesterday, the judges also mentioned Lee Hae In's case. Despite her number one ranking, the top producer opted to withdraw Lee Hae In from the show because she "did not fit in with the overall vibe of the debut group".

According to the probe, Kim Tae Eun had asked the show's executive production director if it would be "acceptable" to delete Hae In because she was in first place. After the executive director agreed, Kim proceeded to fire her from the show. 

Lee Hae In (YouTube/Sony Music Korea)

Hae In said that members were subjected to hazardous living circumstances that resulted in skin rashes and that trainees as young as 12 years old were left screaming due to starvation. She added that the candidates were forced to film at all hours of the day and night, even at 4 am, and that some trainees broke a window to avoid the physical toll. The prosecution later requested Lee Hae In to testify as a witness to the fraudulent goings-on.

After this, Lee Hae In wrote a statement to fans, thanking them for their support and promising to keep working toward her goals. ''In November 2020, after working multiple part-time jobs just to survive, including at a café, on a set, and as a fitting model, she finally made her solo debut with her first single, 'Santa Lullaby,' which she co-wrote. The song was produced by Sony Music Korea.

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