Into the New Global Survival Program: I-LAND


As part one of the globally admired South Korean survival program I-LAND has come to a close, many watchers are communicating their differing opinions about the nature of the show.
I-LAND consists of twenty-three contestants, all differing in nationality, in age, and in their time as a trainee. The program itself was formulated to debut a new boy (idol) group under Big Hit Entertainment: the company home to well-known groups within the K-Pop industry such as BTS, Seventeen, TXT, NU’EST, and GFriend. In addition, I-LAND has obtained global popularity as audience voting through the official Weverse app has been collected in over one hundred seventy countries worldwide (according to the official statement of Mnet first stated in episode 6 of the program).
I-LAND takes a unique approach in comparison to the typical South Korean survival show that usually consists of over a hundred contestants and a stricter regiment during the learning period for each stage. Furthermore, the program is split into two parts. The first part of the program focuses on obtaining the final twelve trainees to continue into part two for a chance at debuting as a member of the new boy group. The second part focuses on formulating the final debut group among those trainees. Trainees are split into two groups: The “Ground” and “I-LAND.” Being in “I-LAND” ensures a possibility of debuting and includes the top twelve trainees. Those who are not in “I-LAND” automatically go to the “Ground:” the area in which trainees who do not reside in the top twelve can practice and compete in tests to obtain a position in “I-LAND” for a chance at debuting.
The position (whether the trainee is in the “Ground” or “I-LAND”) in which each trainee resides depends on a combination of global voting, decisions of the producers, and opinions of the trainees themselves about their teammates. There is a series of four tests within each part and trainees can be swapped between the “Ground” and “I-LAND” based upon their performance in each test. Those who are in “I-LAND” at the conclusion of part one will proceed into part two as the final twelve. Those who are not in “I-LAND” by the conclusion of part one are eliminated from the program and will not proceed to part two.
Watching the program from the very beginning, I’ve come to feel attached to the trainees in a way that I haven’t when watching other survival programs. This is due to the excellent choice of trainees. Every participant is extremely talented, kind-hearted, and hard working in their efforts to become performers at such a young age (ages ranging from 14 to 22 years old). The program gives the trainees a considerable amount of independence in the way that they train and go about their days, which ultimately allows the audience to get to know the boys on a deeper level. The trainees learn the dances and vocals individually with guidance of their teammates rather than receiving direct instruction from the mentors or producers at the beginning of their learning process. The trainees only receive aid after they’ve already become familiar with the musical material and learned the choreography and vocals for themselves.
This independence simulates the reality of life after debuting. This sense of independence sets I-LAND apart from other survival programs I’ve viewed since the majority of such programs depends heavily on the restrictions and guidance of mentors. Overall, I immensely enjoy the program and the individuals who make it what it is.
Although I do enjoy the program as a whole, there are faults in the production of the show. These faults comprise various decisions on the part of Mnet, the South Korean music channel with which Big Hit Entertainment collaborates regarding production of the program. Even though all of the trainees are remarkable and well chosen, Mnet demonstrates heavy favoritism, especially in regards to screen time, to specific trainees while leaving out various individuals whom the audience knows little.
This puts those left out at a severe disadvantage because the viewers are inhibited from getting to know the contestants on a deeper level than simply their introductions and performances. This directly influences the decisions of the audience during global voting and puts the trainees in danger of elimination.
Fans of the show, including me, claim Mnet is guilty of what is deemed “evil editing.” Mnet edits the program in a way that creates a false perception of conflict between the contestants by targeting specific trainees and editing them in a different context than what occurred in the actual footage. This editing creates a false judgement about the trainees that did not appear during the original clips. Fans of the program recognize this to be the case due to live cams of I-LAND on the official Weverse app. These cams provide live footage of the trainees and occurences within I-LAND, but scenes appear differently than the actual footage seen when an episode airs. For example, in a clip where numerical rankings of the trainees were being announced, one of the boys appeared to be shaking his head with an obvious look of discontent as the trainees who ranked in the top two were announced. This resulted in a tremendous amount of backlash against the trainee. However, fans of the program came to realize this reaction was out of context and was thus falsified as the live cam revealed that the trainee never reacted that way in that situation. This type of editing has been exposed on multiple occasions within the span of I-LAND, as well as during the other programs that Mnet has produced and aired in the past. Although the faults in production have created various issues and disadvantaged trainees, I continue to support the program due to my admiration of the trainees and appreciation for Big Hit Entertainment in their endeavors to showcase such a talented group of people.
When discussing the specifics of the show, one fact remains evident beyond any piece of praise or criticism that has surfaced, people from all over the world are waiting to see what happens in I-LAND next. I-LAND has reached a global platform and K-Pop fans especially are showing their admiration for the new survival program. The K-Pop industry has taken the world by storm and I-LAND is another step in the spread of its prevalence worldwide.