Forced Appearances on ISAC


Leaked photos might mean that BTS won't get air time on ISAC? At this point, everyone on twitter has probably seen warnings about this.


This concern was brought to my attention by Jjang Jjang Man Bboong Bboong and in this post I'll treat issues both of air time problems but more generally of corruption within the Korean entertainment industry using ISAC as a prime example.

WHAT IS ISAC?

For all the newcomers to Kpop, let's start basic.


ISAC is the Idol Star Athletic Championships held and broadcasted by MBC since 2010.

Nowadays it's filmed and aired twice a year. First in February for the Lunar New Year and once in September for Chuseok. It's usually filmed a few weeks before airing.


Idols are split into teams and compete in different Olympic sports for medals.

It's a great opportunity especially for newer idols to distinguish themselves and get noticed if they're good at sports.​

I attended ISAC in 2011, which was one of the more problematic years, during which the program was especially criticised for treating idols and fans poorly. They have since changed format, and conditions have improved, but there are still many problems concerning ISAC and I'll talk about a few of them here.

FAN PHOTOS & AIR TIME

When ISAC is being filmed, fans gather in masses to support their favourite stars and get lots of fan-idol interaction.


Having been there myself, I can honestly say that ISAC is a bit like a massive fansign events with hundreds of idols and thousands of fans and a lot of fan service and cross group's interactions.

Naturally, everything is recorded by the fans. Thousands of photos are snapped, videos by the hundreds and, as we know with photos and videos of our idols, they always end up on fan sites and twitter.


Now this is where the panic comes in:

People have been saying that idols' air time on ISAC will suffer if fans circulate photos and videos from the event before the broadcast.


This has proven to be true in the past, when MBC have cut certain parts out from the final airing because of prior leaks, but there are a few things to consider both in relation to this and in relation to how fans posting photos from the event will affect BTS's airtime.

1. When fans share photos real time during the event it often means that fan masters and other fans taking photos are thrown out as a result (hence less photos and videos for us to marvel at later on).

When this happens, people from the same fan club are usually thrown out. So if a lot of ARMY post real time, ARMY fansite masters and the like who take photos but don't share them real time might be thrown out during the event.

2. MBC don't want the photos and videos circulating until the broadcast date because they don't want the results to be leaked. Their main issue with it is that people might not watch the broadcast!

3. Having a few photos circulating is also good for MBC, as it promotes the show, but the key is that they don't want the outcomes and fun moments that they want to air to be leaked beforehand!


That's why they threaten fans with the prospect of having their idols' time cut short, and why they have cut segments in the past too.


4. BTS are now well established and broadcast stations are acknowledging this by giving them more air time.


MBC knows that cutting down air time for groups like BTS or EXO, will bring a lot of angry fans, but more importantly, their ratings will suffer.


​The cut of air time is a scare tactic that MBC uses to control the huge crowd of fans. As long as results aren't shared and as long as too many photos of videos don't circulate, then they won't make drastic changes in their editing with senior idols like BTS.


Junior idols are at bigger risk of being cut for things like that (this is also happened to BTS when they weren't as well known).


I see pictures on twitter pop up, but a lot of fans are (thankfully) taking a distance and not Retweeting. Also, compared to previous years, I don't see as many photos at this point, which is a good improvement.

Overall: I don't think we have much to worry about concerning BTS's air time, as long as we continue to keep a distance from the posted photos and don't repost and retweet them until the show has been broadcasted.


(So please don't do that as we don't want to create a problem we're there isn't one!)


Not that BTS seem to care. V low-key revealed the results on twitter of one of the competitions, blaming his failure on being left-handed.

Why don't BTS care? Well they're seniors there now and they're pretty much just there at this point because they have to be.


The issue of sharing photos from the event is what made me start this post, but there is a much darker and bigger issue hiding beneath the surface of ISAC that I need to address!

It starts with a simpler issue...

INJURIES DURING ISAC

ISAC has repeatedly been criticised because idols are often injured during the recording. This year the staff mentioned safety as their main concern and had medical staff on call in case anything happened.​

This also shows in the choice of sports. Futsal (football on a small indoor field) was removed this year, as that's the sport that usually causes the most injuries, and replaced with aerobic dance.

But despite the frequent injuries, idols still continue to come out on the show... why?


And why don't BTS care about the rules and about winning this year?

FORCED ATTENDANCE

This is the main issue with ISAC, and many other programs, and it's my main reason for wanting to write this post.

Super Junior's Kim Heechul, who is known to fans for always speaking his mind no matter who it offends and for giving many inside information on the shady Kpop industry, stated a few years ago that idols appear on ISAC in order to not get on the bad side of MBC, the broadcasting station that organises ISAC.


MBC then responded to this saying that the program where Heechul voiced his opinion was known for making such statements, so they didn't feel the need to comment. They said that sometimes idols have other schedules, but they didn't actually deny the accusation.


This is something that's known to happen a lot in the Korean entertainment industry.

It is a commonly accepted fact that in order for a rookie group to appear on a show, the entertainment company also needs to provide a senior and more famous star to go on a show.

(most often on the same show but on a different air date)

MBC are especially known for practicing this. With Weekly Idol being an easy example.

Stars from the same company are usually sold as package deals.


Did anyone notice that in spring last year JYP and TWICE went on the show one week after each other? That was a typical package deal sell.

As was BtoB and Beast who both went on the show a few weeks apart in the summer of 2015. At the time they were both with Cube Entertainment.


Same with Lee Hi and Akdong Musician from YG going on the show weeks apart. And then BlackPink who were sold in a package deal where YG promised that Big Bang would go on the show at their next comeback (which they did, despite being way too senior for the show).

These sort of package deals happen all the time, and companies who only have one group (like BigHit did until recently) are at a disadvantage.


Not only that, but in order to stay in the good graces of the broadcast company, entertainment companies have to provide their top stars for shows like ISAC.


Ever wonder why only a few members of more established groups like EXO, SHINee, Super Junior, Wonder Girls and 2PM actually appear on the show, when junior idols go on the show with all their members?

For junior idols, a show like ISAC is a chance to be on tv and be noticed.
For senior idols, it's a requirement in order to be able to go on other MBC shows, and in order for their company juniors to be on the show at all.

But, because the well established groups draw an audience as soon as their group name is mentioned, everyone in the group don't have to attend, two or three members is enough to gain the hype and fulfill their duties towards MBC.

For the 2015 Lunar New Year Special idols were split into teams by their entertainment companies (SM entertainment together, JYP together, etc.). This was also the format used for the first ISAC airing, but this time around the format made it tough for groups from smaller companies as they didn't get as much exposure.

This is one of the main reasons BTS didn't attend ISAC for that broadcast, despite having attended before.


From MBC's viewpoint it was a great idea as it drew more idols from the Big companies to attend the show, because the entertainment companies were competing and wanted to up their chances of winning both medals and air time by putting senior idols on the show.

BigHit & MBC

BTS are participating in ISAC this year as well (as you probably already know since the filming took place earlier today).


BTS are from a small company and until recently they didn't have Junior idols in their company, so they aren't usually sold in package deals.


However at their debut they were sold as package deals along with 2AM and 8eight who had both been appearing on ISAC since the program started. However, 8eight and 2AM were not at the time as attractive to broadcast stations as seniors from bigger companies, so for BTS, package deals was usually impossible.

Nowadays, BTS are the company breadwinners, who need to act like seniors in order for Bighit to sell TXT onto programs.

However if BTS want to be able to appear or MBC's other shows, appearing on ISAC is even more crucial since they are their company's main stars and there isn't a company senior that the broadcasting stations would prefer to hire over BTS.


BTS are actually on a lot of MBC programs and both MBC and BigHit have a mutually beneficial work relationship that they're both eager to continue. BigHit were able to promote both 8eight and 2AM successfully on MBC and their success continues with BTS.

In 2016 BTS members made appearances on many MBC programs; Jungkook was on "King of Masked Singer"; V and Jungkook were both on "Celebrity Bromance"; Rap Monster was on "Close-up Observatory on Idol"; he also went on "Duet Song Festival"; and of course the group attended both ISAC events.


So far in 2017 Jimin has been on "King of Masked Singer" and they're all filming ISAC, and we're still in January.

BigHit have an equally good relationship with SBS, but they seem to have trouble making appearances on KBS shows (MBC, SBS and KBS are the top broadcasting stations in South Korea).


V is their true breakthrough for KBS programs because Hwarang is being aired on KBS2, and with BTS's recent rise in fame, KBS might start to go out of their way to get BTS on their shows, especially because of their recent popularity.


Thanks to their rise in popularity BTS are starting to surmount the problematics for appearances on the major broadcast stations. Being the sole artist from their company is no longer much of a limitation because of their popularity.

We're now also a point at which BigHit can start thinking about debuting a new idol group because BTS's popularity guarantees that they can be sold as a package deal with a rookie group to broadcast stations, guaranteeing their juniors screen time right from the start.


The smart move for BigHit would be to wait another year to be certain that BTS appear regularly on enough shows for this to be a reality.


Now why do all the members of BTS appear on ISAC time after time despite not all of them participating in the sports?


Considering what I've just talked about, I think it's for two reasons:

1.They're from a small company so appearing all together helps them to further be in the good graces of MBC.

2. They're a group who values teamwork. I think they actually enjoy being there together and would feel awkward not going if other members are going. Unless they're hindered from it by another schedule (as was the case in 2016), I genuinely think they would rather be with their members and show their support.

It's actually quite rare to see the amount of support BTS give each other. They're almost like each other's fans.

You might recall ISAC in 2015 when Suga was on the basketball team. Jimin and Jungkook came to support him despite not playing. The venue was small and no other idols were there to support their group members.

Even the staff appeared to be surprised at the loud support and hurriedly prepared a space for Jimin and Jungkook to be and cheer from so they didn't have to sit among the fans.

The teamwork and brotherhood is an important part of BTS and maintaining it will prove crucial to their future development as a group.

Even if teamwork is part of why they join the ISAC, they also sort of have to appear for a better chance at being included on other programs.

Forced appearances on shows is common and encourages the overworking aspect of being an idol.

ISAC is a good example of this sort of corruption in the Korean entertainment industry, and yet it only scratches the surface. These issues go much deeper, but for now, I believe I've given you a lot to think about already, so I'll end this week's Kpop history here.



​​Previous Kpop history lessons include Mandatory Military Service and Disbandment.



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Thilde Kold Holdt

I am a novelist by profession, currently working an epic fantasy series about 7th century Korea. My epic fantasy trilogy about Vikings, the Hanged God, is currently being published. I have lived

enough different places that the most difficult question to answer is: "where are you from?" I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday, though...

© Thilde Kold Holdt