K-Pop Looks Beyond China

In the face of a boycott of Korean culture in China, many K-pop artists are quickly looking to other markets in Asia.  

AP Photo / Lee Jin-man
Seoul Sports Complex, Seoul, South Korea

Though it hasn’t said so publicly, the Chinese government has reportedly pressured presenters and producers on the mainland to cancel and otherwise shun Korean artists and productions on stage and television because of its objection to the deployment of an anti-missile defense system on South Korean soil.

Kim Jai-joong, a member of the superstar boy band JYJ, performed March 18 in Bangkok for a crowd of 5,000 fans, many of whom flew in for the concert from Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, according to South Korean media outlet Yonhap News.

The stop was part of Kim’s first Asia tour since being discharged from the South Korean military. He also managed to perform in Hong Kong, and while the show went off without a hitch, Chinese nationalists filled the internet with negative comments, saying those who bought tickets to the show were betraying China.

The tour continues this week to Macau and Taiwan. Popular boy band EXO also had a show March 18, but in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of its “global tour,” which was headed to Singapore next.

Yonhap reports that there is “a rising consensus within the industry that it needs to take this opportunity to lessen its dependence on the Chinese market.”

Though Japan is a still a reliable market for K-pop and the place where Korean music groups make the most money, for the past 15 years Korean entertainment companies have invested heavily in China, almost to the exclusion of the rest of the continent.

One executive told Yonhap that while he hopes the situation with China corrects itself, “we don’t rule out that these frosty relations will continue for the time being, so we plan to hold this year’s concerts in Asian nations that we haven’t been to.”