It isn’t the first controversy the show has faced!
MBC has come under fire after a recent video gained criticism for using a minor contestant on their show Fantasy Boys to “queerbait” viewers.
Like its predecessor, My Teenage Girl, the goal is to create a global K-pop boy group composed of trainees from all around the world.
Since it started airing, the show has gained attention for multiple reasons. It hasn’t gained the same attention as similar shows, with many netizens sharing anger at the blatant racism and xenophobia among the contestants.
Yet, while the show already raised concerns due to comments of xenophobia amongst the contestants, the show has recently gained attention from international fans after queerbaiting audiences with promotion, including contestants who are adults and a minor.
On May 23, the news outlet iMBC News posted a thumbnail showing the contestants seemingly kissing.
After watching the full video, it was just the contestants playing various games, including the pepero game.
One of the contestants seen on the thumbnail as the main focal is 14-year-old Hyeontae, who played the game with an older contestant.
They even used the young idol in the paper game, emphasizing an image of Hyeontae and 19-year-old Hikaru, and they made it seem like the two were kissing, especially with the reactions of the others.
Especially on the next round, the paper slightly dropped, causing their lips to momentarily meet.
Yet, while the comments on the original video seemed positive, the quotes for the iMBC tweet were less than happy. In particular, they accused the show of not only “queerbaiting” but exploiting the minor contestants.
mind i tell you all that the white shirt guy oh hyeontae is a 08 liner ☠️ mbc making minors do all this is not it for me https://t.co/HApVbIzFq7 pic.twitter.com/G8B8g9YRzX
— kiki ☆ jongwoo fanmeet (@kikiwooz) May 23, 2023
this is really strange when u have 13/14 year olds on the show😭 https://t.co/aTInbrmPvA
— 🕷 (@junwoner) May 23, 2023
can mbc do anything right.. it would’ve been okay if they didn’t have a damn 15 year old playing this game with full grown adults https://t.co/YShYEi2MC6
— yena ! (@MYUC4TZ) May 23, 2023
promoting your show by using images featuring a minor (oh hyeontae) playing the pepero/pocky game is crazy https://t.co/kAelQnokN3
— Faith ♡ user y0ung_wiu II seunghwan debut when??? (@youngumis) May 23, 2023
While many were concerned about the fact they had a minor on the thumbnail playing the game with an adult, others were angry at the “queerbaiting.”
Queerbaiting is when creators hint at, but then do not depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQIA+ representation. For a country like Korea which still has very conservative views on sexuality, the thumbnail and context raised anger as many members of the community live in fear.
While “queerbaiting” is a hotly debated topic within K-Pop that needs to be sorted, it also raises issues on the topic of underage trainees on this kind of show. The LGBTQIA+ community are not able to confidently express their identity in Korea and underage trainees are exploited and sexualized, both issues are showcased in this clip.