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(LEAD) Appeals court upholds prison terms for producers of Mnet's 'Produce' series over vote-rigging

All News 16:46 November 18, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS Mnet's response in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- An appellate court on Wednesday maintained prison terms for two disgraced producers of the popular music channel Mnet for rigging the vote results of a popular audition program.

The Seoul High Court sentenced Ahn Joon-young, the producer of the audition program "Produce," to two years in prison and forfeiture of 37 million (US$30,000), and chief producer Kim Yong-beom to 20 months in prison, the same punishments ruled in May by the Seoul Central District Court.

The two were convicted of manipulating the vote outcome to put certain contenders in favorable positions to debut as members of an idol group.

They were also found guilty of taking bribes from talent agencies that fielded candidates for the show.

"The candidates who were eliminated from the competition because of the fraud will live with the traumatic experience for the rest of their lives, and TV viewers proud of voting for their idols were left with a bitter sense of betrayal," the court said during the ruling.

During the sentencing hearing, the list of 12 victims was revealed, which included Kang Dong-ho, more widely known by his stage name Baekho, a member of the boy group NU'EST.

"Right from the outset (of the scandal), we figured out who the victims were, and have been discussing compensation with them," the music network said, adding that the process is ongoing. It gave no details.

"We sincerely apologize for the pain we have caused the trainees and their families," it said.

The "Produce" series, which went on air from 2016 to 2019, became a mega hit. It enabled television viewers to vote via text messages for a contestant they supported. The series consists of "Produce 101," "Produce 101 Season 2," "Produce 48" and "Produce X 101."

Through its four seasons, the show spawned four high-profile K-pop bands -- I.O.I, Wanna One, IZ*ONE and X1. Among the four, only IZ*ONE is currently active in the K-pop scene.

The court, meanwhile, issued suspended sentences for the executives of the talent agencies accused of conspiring in the fraud, saying that the fines that they were given by the district court were too lenient for their crimes.

Producer Ahn Joon-young leaves the Seoul Central District Court in handcuffs on Nov. 5, 2019, after attending a court review of his arrest warrant on charges of manipulating the text message-based vote results of "Produce X 101," a fan-voted K-pop competition show that ran on local cable channel Mnet. (Yonhap)


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