When it comes to debuting as a K-Pop idol, how young is too young? JYP Entertainment and P NATION‘s survival show LOUD will be drawing to a close within the next two weeks, and one contestant who could make P NATION’s new boy group lineup is just 12 years old: Koki.
12-year-old Japanese contestant Tanaka Koki was born on January 29, 2009. So far, despite his age, he’s performed remarkably well on LOUD. Koki was the second-youngest contestant when the show started, just behind 11-year-old Na Yunseo. However, Yunseo was eliminated in the show’s third episode.
That left Koki as the baby of SBS‘s LOUD—and one of the most talented trainees. While it may be hard to believe a 12-year-old could compete with the skills of contestants ranging up to 21 years old, you only have to see Koki in action to see how he’s come so far. The young aspiring star has impeccable dance skills rivaling those far older than him.
During his time on the show, he’s shown his talents in a wide variety of styles too.
At first, many weren’t sure whether Koki would get through to the show’s casting stage given his age and his difficulty with speaking Korean. However, in episode five, he made it into P NATION as one of the LOUD finalists.
As of episode six, he’s one of the nine remaining P NATION trainees in the running to debut in the agency’s new boy group. His fellow contestants range in age from 15 to 18 years old, and up until the most recent episode, he had a fellow 12-year-old alongside him—Kim Donghyun, born December 14, 2008. However, Donghyun has since been eliminated.
With just two episodes left, there’s every chance Koki could make it into the final lineup—but is he too young? Thus far, fans of LOUD are divided. Some say that the show’s minimum age limit was set for a reason and that JYP Entertainment and P NATION must consider him old enough. However, others say there’s no way a child so young should be entering such a cutthroat industry, especially when he has plenty of time to make his debut in the future.
Ultimately, there’s no doubt that Koki already has the skills to rival his peers on stage as an idol. That said, it’s equally undeniable that being an idol comes with a lot of hardships that would be hard for even an adult to face—let alone a preteen.
Tune into episode seven of LOUD on August 28 to see if Koki makes it through to the show’s finale. In the meantime, watch his highlights here.