Asia: Hard Rock International, Japan Flag Controversy, Disneyland

Hard Rock Hypes New Logo

Hard Rock International promoted its brand in Japan, and hinted at intentions to build a resort in the country, with a concert by Muse at the massive Yokohama Arena in front of more than 10,000 people.

At the press conference for the concert, the company introduced its new Japanese logo called the “Hard Rock Experience” which features a subtitle that says, “The Future of a Japan-style IR.”

IR stands for “integrated resorts,” indicating that Hard Rock has, according to Asia Gaming Brief (AGB), “unfurled its banner in the Japan IR race.”

AGB reports that Hard Rock’s CEO for Asia, Edward Tracy, “emphasized that his company stands apart from other international IR operators in terms of its origins and orientation—entertainment is our DNA. We are an entertainment company first and a casino company second.”

Hard Rock intends to bid for both large urban IRs and regional locations when the Japanese government finalizes plans to legalize casino gambling by setting guidelines. Anticipating this development Hard Rock has already “submitted plans to two local governments.”

Tracy was indirect when asked by reporters how much Hard Rock was willing to invest. He said other potential investors who name a figure couldn’t possibly understand how much they needed to spend until they knew what the tax rate and other parameters were going to be.

In that regard, he didn’t see Hard Rock being at a disadvantage. “Frankly, we have the best balance sheet in the business,” he said. “So it’s not a challenge for us and we don’t have to brag about it.”

Korean Media Boycott Over?

Korean media have announced the end of the unofficial Chinese boycott of South Korean entertainment content.

The boycott originally followed South Korea’s installation of an anti-missile system that Chinese authorities said destablized the area.

China’s general boycott of South Korean entertainment was in effect for almost a year, but last week South Korean actress Jun Ji-hyun appeared in a PR campaign for cosmetics on the website of China’s biggest online shopping mall.

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, during a regular press conference, said he was unaware of any “restrictions” on South Korean cultural exports, according to, and that his country was working hard with Korea “to promote the early return to the correct and healthy track of bilateral exchanges and cooperation.”

Neither the cosmetics company nor Alibaba, which runs the Internet shopping mall, responded to media questions about the ad. 

Reuters contacted South Korean media giant CJ E&M about the possible thaw, and a representative said, “We haven’t seen any immediate tangible change, but we hope the agreement [reached between Beijing and Seoul in late October] will have a positive impact on future cultural exchange.”

Shares of CJ E&M rose 5.6 percent Nov. 13 following the news of the Jun’s commercial.

In addition, S.M. Entertainment, which used to hold many K-pop concerts in China but hasn’t since September 2016, saw its stock price rise 3.9 percent, even though its reported earnings for the January-July period were down 61 percent from the same period in 2016.

YG Entertainment, another agency that handles a large number of K-pop stars, and whose earnings this year have been 88 percent below last year’s, saw its stock rise 6.1 percent, despite the fact that the benchmark Kospi index fell 0.5 percent on the same day.

Historic Flag Irks Korean Fans

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J-pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki enraged her South Korean fans recently after she uploaded a concert video to Instagram showing off a Japanese flag.

According to the Korean news site MyDaily, during the early November concert depicted, Hamasaki put on a jacket she borrowed from a backup singer. The jacket was embroidered with a Japanese flag.

Unfortunately, it was the style of flag used by the Japanese military during World War II, featuring the rising sun with rays of lights emanating from it. That version of the flag is now used by Japanese right-wing groups.

To Koreans, that version of the flag represents Japan during the time the Korean Peninsula was colonized by their neighbors to the east.

According to MyDaily, the reaction on the Internet was swift and intense, with fans calling out Hamasaki for either ignorance or willful disregard for Koreans’ feelings.

Hamasaki eventually got the message and blurred out the flag before re-uploading the video, but it didn’t placate her Korean fans.

 “It’s too late,” one said. “You shouldn’t have uploaded it in the first place.”

Several fans pointed out that perhaps the singer didn’t know about the flag, since she apparently took it off the backup singer in a spontaneous fashion without actually looking at it.

Ayumi Hamasaki
VCG/VCG (via Getty Images)
– Ayumi Hamasaki
Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki attends Alvin Goh FUN & SEXY birthday party on February 22, 2016 in Hong Kong, China.

But uploading the video onto her official media still rubbed some people the wrong way. 

Disneyland Promo Draws In Hong Kong

A promotional offer from Hong Kong Disneyland offered 50,000 local residents free one-day admission passes that can be used next year.

The deal sparked a huge online response, as a one-day pass for an adult normally costs about $75.

In order to enter the drawing, applicants have to be Hong Kong residents with a valid ID card or, if they are under 11, a Hong Kong birth certificate.

Domestic workers, many of whom are foreign nationals, are also allowed to enter the drawing. Each person can only apply once for a ticket.

More than 330,000 people had registered for the tickets four hours after online registration began, according to the Apple Daily newspaper.

Registration lasts until Nov. 16. Winners are to be announced on the official website Nov. 22.