articleK-Pop

The rocky career of a female singer who debuted at 10 years old

Janey debuted along with her group Sweety at the age of 10. Following her debut was 9 years of activities in the entertainment industry with little success. 

Recently, the topic of adolescents debuting in Kpop is generating heat in South Korea, especially after the introduction of Kpop girl group NewJeans under ADOR (a subsidiary of HYBE). Members of the group all fall within the ages of 14 to 17 years old, with Hyein, the group’s maknae (youngest member), being born in 2008. This issue has caused controversies, as the audience expressed concerns about the negative influence on idols’ mental and physical well-being for being exposed to high stress at such a young age. 

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Female singer banned from performing due to young age 

Kpop idols debuting at 14 is increasingly becoming an everyday occurrence. This begs a question on the long-term effects that the infamously arduous and challenging entertainment industry can pose on adolescent idols. 

Just recently, experts have taken to this matter and stated that debuting at early ages can lead to Kpop idols missing out on important childhood experiences and lack necessary life skills.

“Debuting at such an early age means they [idols] are bound to miss out on childhood experiences. Worst case scenario, if they fail to be famous, the idols are more limited in their own future career prospects owing to a significant gap in educational learning, stemming from singing and performing gigs”, claimed Ha Jae Kun, a popular cultural critic. 

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Such an example is Byeon Seungmi, known by her stage name “Janey” or “JNEY”. Born on 14th December 1998, the singer debuted in July 2008 with her group Sweety. At the time, the eldest member of Sweety was 13 years old and the youngest was only 6. The average age of the group was 10.7 years old. 

The group released a mini-album before their disbandment. During her time with Sweety, Janey was a ripe 10-year-old. Despite her age, fans lauded Janey for her confidence and rapping skill. Nonetheless, after one year of activities, the group disbanded. 

Afterwards, Janey made another debut with a brand new group named GP Basic. The group was not children-targeted, yet the age average of 6 members was only 13.5 years old. This made them one of the youngest Kpop groups at the time. 

According to SBS, GP Basic’s extremely low debut age caused major outrage in the Korean entertainment industry. As a result, the Korean government eventually issued a new regulation restricting the performing age of idols. Therefore, when GP Basic released their track titled “I’ll Be There” on 12th November 2010, Janey was banned from performing on music shows. 

Her management agency issued a statement: “Due to the age restriction for public broadcasting music shows, Janey will not be able to promote with her group. The lyrics for I’ll Be There describes the members’ desire to wait for their youngest member”.

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GP Basic also carried on with their Japanese promotion from December 2010. In regards to this issue, their representative company expressed: “We chose December because the majority of our members were still in secondary schools. Most of them will have been taking their winter break by then, only then can we continue with promotional activities”. 

Janey continued promoting with her group on music shows when the group released their next title track “Jelly Pop”. To this day, the group was only able to attain medium success. Therefore, in seeking popularity, members such as Trinity and Janey continued to participate in the 2012 program “The Last Audition of My Life”. The show provided a second chance for idols with failed debuts to become stars. 

In joining the show, Janey shared she was usually disregarded for her age and “people did not seem to care for my music”.

Unfortunately, the program could not turn Janey’s situation around. Her and Trinity did not debut in the show’s finale. 

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As of 2013, Janey joined another Kpop group D-Unit as a guest member. In this group, she used another stage name called JNEY. She was added to the group thanks to rapper Zico’s recommendation. Sadly, Janey confirmed she would only participate in the group’s second album “Affirmative Chap 1”.

Rocky career after abandoning dream of stardom 

Janey returned to GP Basic after her promotion for “Affirmative Chap 1”. Unfortunately, the group only released a single and has been in indefinite hiatus since 2015. Up to this day, the public did not receive any clear announcement if GP Basic has disbanded or not. 

In 2015, Janey appeared in KBS2’s TV drama “The Producers”, which starred IU and Kim Soo Hyun. Here, Janey played Jini – a Kpop idol trainee. She also appeared in the 2012  series “What is Mom?” and the 2013 series “The Queen’s Classroom”

At the age of 18, Janey did not give up her Kpop dream, which led her to participate in “Unpretty Rapstar season 3” as a contestant in 2016. On the show, participants compete through multiple rounds just to have a chance to record for an official track. However, her appearance on the show was short-lived and not memorable. She was eliminated on the sixth episode. 

At this age, Janey had already debuted in two groups, appeared as guest member in a third, participated in two survival shows, and led a short-lived acting career. Still, this rocky journey, filled with bad luck, does not seem to stop Janey from pursuing her dream.

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In 2017, Janey participated in “The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project” (also known as “The Unit”). This show attempts to salvage the careers of senior idols with years of experience yet little to no recognition. Her 9-year experience helped Janey to fight for 10 episodes of the program. However, once again, she was eliminated before the grand finale. 

It seems years of diligence and effort only work to push Janey away from the limelight. Her last social media update was in 2014, while her Instagram account was deleted. 

According to Janey’s fan account updates, the female singer is spending her time with her family. In 2019, she was spotted along with her mother and older sister while watching a baseball match. Currently, not much information is to be found about her jobs and whereabouts. Yet, it can be seen she has left the industry and returned to a normal life. 

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