SEOUL • K-pop lost some shine after the recent suicide of SHINee singer Kim Jong Hyun, which revealed the unrelenting pressure the industry put on artists.
Now, its image has taken another hit. MBC network's Idol Star Athletics Championships, a variety show featuring K-pop stars competing in sports events, has been slammed over its persistently bad safety record, following new injuries inflicted on participants.
Ungjae of boyband Impact was reportedly rushed to hospital for shoulder pain after a shoot in Gyeonggi province last week.
It was revealed that the singer, who was already getting treatment for a previous shoulder injury, suffered pain after an acrobatic performance.
On the same day, Sana of girl group Twice was also reported to have been taken to a hospital for enteritis - inflammation of the small intestine - while shooting the same episode.
While their agencies later said the stars were recovering, fans have been flooding social media with complaints about the incidents, with some even demanding that the show be canned.
With viewers glued to the competition among K-pop stars in events such as rhythmic gymnastics, aerobics and archery, the show has become one of the most popular festive-occasion programmes since its first episode in 2010.
The show, which annually airs around Chinese New Year's Day in winter and the Chuseok harvest festival in autumn, is seen as a passport to fame, especially for newcomers to the K-pop industry.
This, despite its dodgy safety track record, which has drawn brickbats since 2013, when Bora of Sistar and Daniel of DMTN sustained leg injuries.
In 2014, Seolhyun of AOA was forced to withdraw from group activities after a serious leg injury, while Woohyun of Infinite ruptured his shoulder ligament.
In 2015, Moonbyul of Mamamoo and L.Joe, formerly of Teen Top, injured a leg and finger, respectively. Xiumin of EXO hurt his leg in 2016.
Amid mounting criticism, production staff recently announced a plan to implement extra safety measures, such as beefing up the medical team on the set.
Fans, however, are not convinced that the producers are playing ball.
Following Ungjae's incident, they shared photos on social media that showed the set's racing lane covered with adhesive sheets.
One comment read: "Did you (the staff) use those sheets to save money? Please take care of the artists."
Some fans believe that K-pop stars, who are not all proficient in certain sports, could be more susceptible to injuries given that they do not get sufficient time to practise.
This year's show, headlined by hosts such as Leeteuk of Super Junior and Bomi of Apink, features contestants from 23 K-pop acts, including EXO, Wanna One, Twice, Red Velvet, Monsta X, GFriend, Mamamoo and Lovelyz.
It will air during Chinese New Year next month.
THE KOREA HERALD/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK