No Free Press

South Korea recently implemented a new anti-graft law that may have a profound effect on classical music concerts in the country.

The new law strictly limits the kinds of gifts that journalists and companies receive from other parties, to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. The Korea Times reports that orchestras and concert organizers may lose sponsors, who often receive up to half the seats for classical concerts in exchange for patronage. One PR officer for a famous Korean orchestra told the paper, “Orchestras are desperate for funding, but it’s always difficult to find a patron.

The new law will discourage companies even further from sponsoring orchestras.”

The sponsors usually give the tickets they receive to VIP customers as part of their marketing plans. Several well-known companies have reportedly already decided to abandon their classical sponsorship activities. Another sector that’s affected is theatrical musicals, which have become very popular in recent years in South Korea. Sponsors are important for getting new productions staged in the first place.

The result will probably be higher ticket prices or fewer productions. In addition, some promoters are afraid to invite journalists to their events so that they get covered in the media. According to the new law, journalists cannot accept gifts of more than 50,000 won ($5), and that includes tickets for reviewing purposes. Free showcases or rehearsals open for the media are not usually provided for classical music and other similar cultural events, so reviews are based on actual performances.

One foreign journalist told the Korea Times, “I don’t know of any law in other countries that would prevent journalists from attending concerts because they would be legally denied the right to accept expensive tickets. Even in Singapore, which ranks high in the global anti-corruption index, most cultural journalists are normally provided with free tickets.” Popular music presenters are less worried about the law, because they don’t see any problem with not inviting journalists to their shows.

“Holding idol band showcases is part of our business and they are invitation only. We do not charge or sell tickets to attend them,” said one official of a major entertainment agency.