Starship Entertainment recently announced their newest girl group, a six-member team called IVE. The members were revealed one by one starting November 2 on Twitter, through tweets including the idol’s name, photographs, and their birthday. Fans were ecstatic to see familiar names like Yujin and Wonyoung from IZ*ONE in the lineup, but many expressed worries after seeing the young age of the group’s maknae.
Gaeul is the eldest of the group, born in 2002, and four other members were born in between 2003-2004. The youngest, Leeseo, was born on February 21, 2007, making her 14 years old. Numerous netizens shared their opinions regarding children debuting in K-Pop, with many stating that it can be harmful to them.
i still fully support the IVE members obviously since this isn't leeseo's fault, but i really hope companies take a step back and realize that it's not okay to debut idols at such a young age and that this is something that should not be normalized https://t.co/wB5VuoNWWY
— ً (@kwungri) November 7, 2021
a 14 year old should not be debuting in the kpop industry.. it’s too young idgaf. subjecting literal children to what’s obviously going to be weirdo adults stanning her and also just her having to deal with the innards of the fucked up side of the industry as a TWEEN… no https://t.co/vWhQ5i0Q57
— jeongyeon century 🥰 (@jeongyeonnation) November 7, 2021
Furthermore, some urged K-Pop companies to establish a minimum age for idols to prevent minors from debuting. A common sentiment is that nobody under the age of 18 should be debuted.
idols should be minimum 18 when they debut idc, maybe i’ll give leeway for 17 and turning 18 to within a year but we shouldn’t be normalising debuting kids so young, idol culture is so brutal and it’s a lot to be exposed to at a young age whether they seem ready for it or not
— sie 🌳 gwsn chart bullies (@fauxwol) November 7, 2021
kpop industry normalizing the debut of minors doesn't sit right with me
— ً (@njmyszn) November 7, 2021
However, some defended Starship Entertainment’s decision to debut Leeseo by referencing numerous idols who also debuted at a young age. These include SHINee‘s Taemin, f(x)‘s Krystal, and NCT‘s Jisung, who all debuted at 14 years old.
1.Shinee's taemin debut when he was 14
2.F(x)'s krystal debut when she was 14
3.Nct's jisung debut when he was 14
4. IU debut when she was 15
LEAVE LEESEO ALONE
— mina🍒 (@IVE_stan) November 7, 2021
But others were quick to reply that many idols who debuted at a young age experienced hardships that children should not be exposed to.
seeing many people justifying the ive's member debuting that young with taemin also debuting at that age, so are we just ignoring the things he had to go through at that age?
— h (@oddist) November 7, 2021
“but this idol was also 14-15 when they debut-“ yes and they were too young too don’t y’all get it
— leo (@YUJ1NER) November 7, 2021
people in qrts naming another artist just to prove that it isn't wrong to debut at such young age. no you're wrong. just bcs there are a lot of them doesn't mean that we should normalize this https://t.co/ijLxMSnnWF
— mira (@qwtiev) November 7, 2021
Fans also defended Leeseo against unfair treatment and harsh online criticism. Many stated that the debate surrounding how young is too young to debut should be centered around the companies making the final decision, not the idols themselves.
"yall are normalising these companies to debut young idol" we are not??? the quotes are hella weird to a literal KID are we supposed to just watch it happen and send trucks to Starship with LEESEO_OUT banners … cant stand yall fr
— kin. (@wontonins) November 7, 2021
please give our newest member a lot of love, although she's young and it's very risky to debut at such a young age, it's her dream and we should be able to love and support her unconditionally ☹️
— gaeul pics (@gaeulspic) November 7, 2021
The discussion of whether minors should debut has been going on for years, and will likely continue for years to come. Just a few months ago, a 7-year-old idol grabbed netizens’ attention and sparked conversation. Many believe that it is normal for idols to debut young as long as they are well protected. On the other hand, a growing conversation around the mental health of idols has contributed to concerns over people debuting too young.