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[Newsmaker] Court reviews arrest warrants in audition show's alleged vote-rigging case

A Seoul court on Tuesday began its review of a prosecution request to issue arrest warrants for a producer of a popular TV audition show over vote-rigging allegations.

The Seoul Central Court held its hearing to decide whether to issue arrest warrants for the producer and three talent agency officials embroiled in a scandal over "Produce X 101," a fan-voted idol competition show that ran on cable channel Mnet.

Police have been investigating allegations that production staff manipulated mobile text message-based voting results to include some contestants in X1, a band of the final 11 winners.

“Produce X 101” (SKT)
“Produce X 101” (SKT)

Prosecution filed a request for the four people on charges of fraud, for allegedly tampering with the results to benefit certain contestants.

An additional charge of dereliction of duty was added to the producer for allegedly receiving bribes in exchange for the manipulation.

The voting results came into the spotlight soon after the final episode of the cable TV show aired in July.

Fans questioned the results as some promising contenders who outperformed rivals throughout the season were eliminated, while some candidates unexpectedly made it on the winners list.

Angry fans accused the show of rigging the final vote count, referring to dubious numerical patterns in the final count, even releasing a statement and lodging a legal complaint.

The scandal developed into an investigation involving the show's chief producer, production staff members as well as police raids on Mnet headquarters and five talent agencies, including Starship Entertainment, which represents two of X1's 11 members.

Despite the controversy, the final 11 winners made their debut as boy band X1 in late August.

Mnet, which had remained mostly silent on the issue, released an official apology Tuesday.

"We are again deeply sorry to viewers and fans who loved 'Produce X,' contestants and talent agency officials," the company said in a statement.

"We will cooperate with the investigation and take responsibility for areas that we are accountable for according to the probe results." (Yonhap)