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Over a year into aespa’s debut, NingNing is involved in possibly the biggest controversy of her career 

The current situation of NingNing in Korea can harm her career and aespa’s reputation. 

In recent days, aespa’s NingNing is the most discussed idol on Korean online communities hen every topic about her constantly receives high engagement. For the first time after more than a year of debut, the Chinese female idol surpassed Karina and Winter to gain all the public’s attention. However, the reason behind this is not positive at all.

Looking back at NingNing’s career that was on the rise, fans can’t help but sigh in regret because a female idol with so much potential is now embroiled in controversy. 

SM panned for gold when eliminating famous trainees to keep NingNing

NingNing was born on October 23rd, 2002 and is a Gen Z idol. She had nearly 5 years of training at SM Entertainment before officially debuting with aespa as the maknae and main vocalist.

Since her debut, NingNing has been no stranger to Pink Blood, the community of SM stand, as she was introduced by the company before through a trainee training project called SM Rookies in 2016. She is also the only female trainee in this project to stay at SM and debut in a new girl group.

SM introduced NingNing in SM Rookies project at the end of 2016

Before that, the famous female trainees of SM Rookies such as Seo Herin, Xu Yiyang all left right before the debut of aespa. It can be seen that after the rigorous selection process, NingNing is the final piece that SM decided to put into aespa, proving that the company’s belief in the female idol is not small.

First time gaining attention for looking similar to Jennie

After debuting, NingNing suddenly became the center of discussion for her visual that has many similarities with senior BLACKPINK’s Jennie. Netizens think that the big round and sharp cat eyes, chubby cheeks along with the chic ‘cool girl’ aura are the characteristics that make the maknae of the aespa group look so much like Jennie in a few moments.

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Ning Ning is called “Jennie’s lookalike” because of the similarities in the appearance

When aespa just debuted, Korean media reported that the main group was the “new version” of BLACKPINK with unmatched beauty and talent. Besides, the number of members, performance outfits, and the pose of the SM girl group have also been repeatedly criticized for imitating the style of their seniors, igniting the ongoing debates between the two groups’ fandoms.

While the fans of the two groups were disgruntled with each other, the fact that NingNing was said to be a ‘Jennie lookalike’ was not doing any favor. This caused some netizens to accuse NingNing of trying to create an image similar to YG’s It girl.

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aespa’s style is often compared to BLACKPINK because of the similarities

A ‘victim’ of SM’s unfair treatment? 

Despite taking on the main vocal position, NingNing is not as pushed by SM as Karina and Winter. Her outfits on stage are often less eye-catching than other members. In activities outside of aespa, SM also gives more opportunities to the 2 Korean members. In the project girl group GOT The Beat, which consists of main vocalists, main dancers and main rappers from 4 generations of SM female idols, instead of NingNing, aespa’s lead vocalist Winter was chosen to join the lineup. This makes netizens think SM is being blatantly biased towards the Korean members and ignoring NingNing

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NingNing is not included in GOT The Beat although she is a main vocalist 
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She is often dressed in the least eye-catching outfits 

NingNing is the official main vocal of aespa, but she has rarely distributed the most singing lines in the group. Except for the debut song “Black Mamba“, NingNing often has fewer parts to Karina or Winter in the majority of aespa’s songs. Even in the smash hit “Next Level“, it is Winter who gets to be in charge of the high note instead of NingNing

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SM openly pushes Winter and Karina and neglects NingNing? 
“Next Level” – aespa

A serious controversy arose when aespa was enjoying high popularity, the group’s image in Korea is at risk 

On February 5, after the speed skating results of the Beijing Winter Olympics were revealed, NingNing sent a message on Bubble in Chinese to congratulate her country’s athletes for getting a gold medal. Things quickly went out of hand when a few fans leaked this message online, causing Korean netizens to be furious and criticize NingNing for openly cheering for their opponent’s victory.

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Showing support for the Chinese team, NingNing was criticized by Korean netizens 

Although NingNing is active in Korea as a Kpop idol, she is still Chinese. There should be nothing wrong with her supporting her country’s athletes. However, the Korean team’s controversial elimination at this year’s Olympics has turned NingNing’s congratulatory message into a bigger problem to Korean netizens as they vent their anger on her. Originally, Koreans do not see Chinese-born idols in a good light, and her message only added more fuel to the fire. 

Amid the current situation, aespa’s fans can’t help but worry about the group’s future. aespa undeniably had a very successful year with 2 hits “Next Level” and “Savage“, sweeping awards at many year-end events, rising to the top of 4th generation girl groups. However, high public recognition does not equal a big fandom. aespa is a rising girl group who has only debuted for over a year, so is their fanbase large and loyal enough to support NingNing on the difficult path ahead?

It must be emphasized that NingNing was not necessarily wrong, she just picked the wrong time to show support for her country. Like Korean netizens said, she should have “read the room” before sending that message. This huge controversy may take a serious hit on aespa’s image in general and NingNing in particular in the future. Hopefully in the next comeback, the SM girl group will release another catchy song that can impress Kpop fans and make Korean netizens forget all their anger.

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