Yesterday, the Seoul High Court revealed the 12 Produce 101 series trainees who were unfairly eliminated due to vote manipulation. Among them were two budding stars from IZ*ONE’s Produce 48: Lee Gaeun and Han Chowon. Had they not been the victims of vote fraud, both were set to make it into IZ*ONE‘s lineup—but where are they now?
1. Lee Gaeun
Before the Produce 48 results were manipulated, Lee Gaeun placed 5th in the finale, which would have made her part of IZ*ONE’s lineup. She would have been the group’s oldest member, surpassing leader Eunbi‘s age by one year.
26-year-old Lee Gaeun initially debuted as the newest member of Pledis Entertainment‘s rotational girl group, After School, in 2012. Her first release with the group was their fifth single, “Flashback”.
Sadly, After School stopped releasing music around 2015, leaving her with no career at just 21 years old. When she eventually joined Produce 48 as the second-eldest contestant in 2018, her motto was, “This is my last chance. I have nothing left to fear“.
Lee Gaeun had remarkably high scores over the course of the show, ranking #1 three weeks in a row. In the episode before the final, she ranked 5th, so fans were understandably showed to see her rank 14th overall.
After departing Produce 48, Lee Gaeun’s career came to a standstill at Pledis Entertainment. She left the company in July 2019, releasing the single “Remember You” to express her feelings to fans.
She later signed with High Entertainment, starting her own YouTube channel in August 2019 Gaeun Day. There, she posts frequent vlogs in which she travels the country.
After Lee Gaeun left her former agency, her career began picking up again. A few months later, she scored a lead role in Naver‘s web series Another Peaceful Day of Second-Hand Items.
And in June this year, Lee Gaeun finally released new music again. As part of a special music project, she recorded a remake of the Beethoven Virus OST “Can You Hear Me” by Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon.
The project, “PROJECT10”, was created to give musicians and opportunity to transcend their former style and take a challenging new route. When asked why he chose Lee Gaeun to join nine other artists, the project’s creator Park Kyung Don said that she “loves music, and she captured the public with her deep sincerity“.
While Lee Gaeun was praised for her beautiful vocals on the track, she revealed that she no longer wants to be an idol singer in a bnt International interview last month. Instead, she intends to continue pursuing her goals as an actress and focus on releasing comforting music she’s written herself.
Shortly after the names of Produce 101‘s unfairly eliminated trainees were revealed to the public, High Entertainment issued a statement on Lee Gaeun’s situation. According to the company, after discussing the matter, Lee Gaeun herself has decided not to take further action regarding the manipulation scandal.
In her interview with bnt International, Lee Gaeun explained that she often felt scared and unsure of herself as a member of After School. Since her rightful winning place on Produce 48 has been revealed, fans are hoping she’ll feel a renewed sense of confidence.
These days, you can find her on her official Instagram account: @by.gaeun.
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2. Han Chowon
Before the Produce 48 results were manipulated, Han Chowon placed 6th in the finale, which would have made her part of IZ*ONE’s lineup. Given the surprising rap skills she displayed on the show, she likely would’ve been part of the group’s rap line.
18-year-old Han Chowon is a trainee under CUBE Entertainment—the company known for girl groups like CLC and (G)I-DLE. She trained for 1 year and 10 months before joining Produce 48, but didn’t perform so well when the show first started. She ranked 64th in the first episode, falling to the 88th rank by episode 3.
However, from that point on, her luck turned around. She was later nicknamed the “Reversal Queen” after showing off her incredible rapping and singing skills. By episode 8, Han Chowon was up to 8th place overall on the show. However, due to the network’s vote manipulation, Han Chowon only ranked 13th in the finale, narrowly missing the cut to join IZ*ONE.
After leaving the show, Han Chowon returned to Cube Entertainment as a trainee. In February 2019, she graduated Hanlim Multi Art School alongside fellow Produce 48 trainees Son Eunchae (expected to debut in A Team Entertainment‘s girl group ISE shortly) and Go Yujin (who left the idol industry earlier this year due to malicious comments).
Since Han Chowon was still a trainee at the time, fans didn’t get to see or hear much of her during the year following Produce 48‘s finale. But, in August 2019, she surprised everyone by signing an official artist contract with her agency. At the time, reports said Han Chowon would be preparing for debut, though they did not specifically whether she would be a solo act or part of a group.
One SPOTV report in January this year claimed Cube Entertainment intended to debut Han Chowon as part of a girl group alongside Lee Joohyun. Lee Joohyun is a fellow trainee from the agency and a former contestant on KBS‘s The Unit (2017) and KBS2‘s Dancing High (2018). Both trainees are part of Cube Entertainment’s pre-debut team, Cube Tree.
However, nothing has been confirmed as of yet. Thankfully, fans haven’t had to wait too long to see Han Chowon begin her career. She made her movie debut earlier this year in the production Bully Bad Guys.
Cube Entertainment is yet to release a statement since the unfairly eliminated trainees were revealed, but fans hope Han Chowon is still busy preparing for a glowing idol debut.