The Decade-Long Journey Of The K-Pop Idol Who Debuted At Nine Years Old

She had debuted in three groups by the age of 14.

Recently, the topic of minors debuting in K-Pop has risen in response to ADOR‘s new girl group NewJeans. Many argue the potential for detrimental mental and social effects on young teens as they’re expected to meet highly competitive expectations and embrace hectic schedules.

(From left to right) NewJeans’ Danielle, Hyein, Minji, Hanni, and Haerin | @picsnewjeans/Twitter

K-Pop idols debuting as young as 14 years old have become increasingly more common, calling into question the long-term effects the notoriously critical and challenging entertainment industry could have on someone at such a young age.

Recently, experts weighed in on the trend and stated that young idols are missing out on crucial childhood experiences and aren’t acquiring the proper life skills needed should they not have a chance to debut.

Debuting at such a young age usually means they miss out on such experiences. In the worst case, if they fail to succeed as celebrities, they are left with limited career options since they’ve most likely missed a significant portion of their education due to idol activities.

— Ha Jae Kun, Pop-culture critic

One example is Byeon Seungmi, professionally known as Janey or JNEY. Janey was born on December 14, 1998, and made her debut in July 2008 with the children’s K-Pop group, SweetyThe group’s oldest member was 13 at the time, and the youngest member was only six years old.


The group released one mini-album before disbanding. At the time of Sweety’s debut, Janey was only nine years old.

The nine members of Sweety with Janey in the front row on the right | KpopProfiles

Despite her extremely young age, she quickly gained attention for her confidence and rap skills. It wasn’t long before Janey was able to debut in a new group called GP Basic. While GP Basic was not meant to be a children’s group, the average age of its six members was 13.5 years old, making them one of the youngest K-Pop groups at the time.

GP Basic with Janey in the center of the front row | SuMandu/Wordpress

Janey was 11 years old when the group was promoting their first single, “Game,” in August of 2010. Janey was able to appear on music shows without an issue until the release of GP Basic’s second single, “I’ll Be There.” Newly changed age regulations prohibited Janey from appearing on music shows.

In response, her fellow members gave her a special shoutout at the beginning of the song and changed the song’s name to “I’ll Be There (To J).”

Janey eventually rejoined the group on music shows for their next single, “Jelly Pop.” So far, the group had seen only moderate success, which led members Trinity and Janey to compete in the show, The Last Audition of My Life in 2012. The competition show allowed idols who had an unsuccessful debut to compete for a second chance at stardom. While on the show, she shared she was constantly dismissed for her age and that “people didn’t care about [her] music.

Trinity and Janey did not make the final lineup on The Last Audition of My Life, but Janey did have a unique opportunity to debut again the following year. In 2013, it was announced that Janey, now 14, would be joining fellow K-Pop group D-Unit as a special guest member under the stage name JNEY. She was added after a recommendation from Zico. GP Basic fans voiced concerns that the sudden announcement meant Janey was leaving the group, but she clarified she was only joining D-Unit for their second album, Affirmative Chap. 1.

(From left to right) D-Unit’s RAM, JNEY, UJIN, and ZIN

Janey returned to GP Basic after concluding the album promotions, but the group unfortunately only released one additional single before they went on an assumed indefinite hiatus in 2015.

In 2015, Janey appeared on the KBS2 drama, The Producers, starring IU and Kim Soo Hyun. Janey played Jini, a K-Pop idol trainee. She had previously acted in What is Mom? in 2012 and The Queen’s Classroom in 2013.

Janey with SHINee’s Key for SHINee’ “Green Rain” music video with “The Queen’s Classroom” cast | Janey GP Basic Facebook

At 17 years old, Janey still had not given up on her K-Pop idol dream, so she joined Unpretty Rapstar 3 in 2016 as a contestant in the same season as (G)I-DLE‘s Soyeon. In the show, the contestants competed in a series of rap battles for a chance to record an official song. Her appearance on the show was short-lived after being eliminated in the sixth episode.

Before turning 18, Janey had already debuted in two groups, appeared as a guest member in a third group, competed on two idol survival shows, and had a brief acting career. Having multiple opportunities to make it big and falling short didn’t seem to dissuade Janey from pursuing stardom.

In 2017, Janey joined The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project (also known as The Unit). This competition show gave contestants who have already debuted a chance to fairly demonstrate their talents in ways they were unable to before. 

Janey’s nine years of experience in the industry helped her as she competed on ten episodes before being eliminated just four episodes before the finale in 2018 and two months after turning 19 years old.

It seems after years of hard work and effort, Janey has taken a step away from the spotlight.  Her last Twitter update was in 2014, and her former Instagram account was reportedly deleted.

A photo of Janey in 2018 posted on a fan’s Instagram account | @seungmi_janey/Instagram

From updates on Janey’s fan accounts, Janey has been spending time with her family and was spotted dancing and enjoying time with her mom and sister at a baseball game in 2019. Not much is known about her recent whereabouts, but it appears she is making the most of her return to normal life.

Check out the article below for expert opinions on the trend of young teenagers debuting in K-Pop.

Is Debuting Young Teenagers As K-Pop Idols A Concerning Trend? Experts Say Yes

 Janey has a new Instagram account with only seven posts, all uploaded within the last year. Her most recent post was a video of herself singing in February this year.

Source: LiveJournal

Idol Struggles & Victories