Aside from being criticized for its unfair treatment of trainees, such as giving select girls more screen time no matter how incompetent they are and making certain girls victim to 'evil editing' (aka manipulative and biased edits), the show is once again ensnared in controversy. The show has recently been accused of sharing one too many similarities to Japanese variety program 'AKB48 Show!'
Netizens are claiming that the general election process, team colors, hidden camera setups, selection process, and more, are too similar to elements of 'AKB48 Show!' to simply overlook, accusing 'Produce 101' of plagiarism. Netizens also pointed out the likeness of the triangular set designs on both shows, how the 'Produce 101' trainees got their flu shots much like the girls on 'AKB48 Show!' and how both shows had tested the contestants' character by entrusting expensive items in their care.
'Produce 101's crew addressed these accusations with a statement to Sports Chosun on February 23. A rep from the program said, "Because 'AKB48 Show!' is not a regularly scheduled program like 'Produce 101' but more a system for managing girl groups, we believe it is a bit of a stretch to make comparisons [between the shows]. Nevertheless, I think there are plagiarism controversies because both shows feature a large number of female contestants. The factors that the public may deem similar are a universal format and setup that you see in many survival, ranking, and variety programs both inside and outside of Korea; the two shows are definitely different."
The rep continued, "'Produce 101' is a type of ranking program that is constructed to form an eleven-member girl group from 101 contestants. As you can tell from the logo, the triangular-shaped set design was derived to clearly express to the viewers the best symbol representing ranking," explaining that the meaning behind the 'Produce 101' set design is different from the set design used in 'AKB48 Show!'
The rep then stressed, "AKB48 are all members who already debuted and the show is structured without any eliminations, making it fundamentally different from our show's content. AKB48 are all active as one group but in 'Produce 101,' the trainees are from different agencies and the distinction is that they compete with one another and will debut under a eleven-member girl group after bring selected through viewers' votes."
Top netizen comments on the article covering this whole debacle read, "But it's the same......" "There are more than one or two similarities; they must have no conscience," "??? That pyramid is also used during AKB elections," "It's easy to deal with plagiarism controversies in Korea..just say 'oh what are you talking about,' and 'I've never seen that' and that'll be the end," "Honestly, didn't the people who knew nothing about AKB thought that they copied the Japanese idol system? And once they dug deeper, they realized they really did copy," "This is so embarrassing. They're making us unable to say that China copied us," and, "I'm just sad that this kind of program is popular."