Former SM Entertainment Trainee Ahn Jeongmin Claims She’s Too Old For Debut At 20 — Sparks Debate On Ageism And Pedophilia In The Industry

She’s 19 years old internationally.

There has always been a long-drawn debate about the appropriate age at which to debut idols. As the eras shift, an increasing number of underaged idols are debuting, with middle-school debuts becoming a norm. Although it was already done by SHINee‘s Taemin back in the day, it is no longer as huge a shock now as it was back then. Just in 2022, we saw the debut of NewJeansHyein at the age of 14.

Not only are groups with one or two minors debuting, but K-Pop has also seen the debut of an entire group of minors. When NCT Dream debuted in 2016, all of the members were underaged. The eldest member, Mark, was a mere 17 years old.

Former SM Entertainment trainee and Girls Planet 999 contestant Ahn Jeongmin shocked netizens when she claimed that at 20 (Korean age), she was too old to debut in a girl group.

A fan had asked her when she would be making her debut. She sadly answered that she was too old.

Mm… But, 20 is too old. Hmm. 20 years old is too old. *reads comment* Really? Mmm.

— Ahn Jeongmin

Of course, she could mean that after she receives extra training, she might waste a few more years and be unable to debut. Currently, most agencies also cap the age for auditions, with the oldest ranging from being born in 2000 to 2003, depending on the agency.

Should idols be debuting only after they turn legal? Ahn Jeongmin’s sad statement raised a debate.

Some blamed the current generation of K-Pop fans who tend to call people in their 20s, “hags.”

Others are not surprised, as 2004-babies are actually of legal age in South Korea already.

Others blame the industry for its harsh expiry date.

Pedophilia in the industry was also brought up, with netizens being concerned about the growing demand for younger idols.


Looking back, After School‘s Kahi was able to debut at 30 years old (Korean age). Many other girl group members also have a huge age gap with the younger members. For example, Red Velvet‘s Irene and the maknae Yeri are eight years apart. Even in newer girl groups, LE SSERAFIM debuted in 2022, with Sakura being 25 years old (Korean age).

Taking that into consideration, age may not be the only factor. As many trainers have revealed before, what is important is how the members fit the group image and direction. Age may be overlooked in that case, but if most members are young and suit a bubbly image, agencies may still hesitate to put an older member in with the group.