Asia: Olympics Tickets, Management Companies, Namie Amuro

Korea Olympics Tickets Sales Hopeful

As of December 27, about 655,000 of the tickets available for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, had been sold, or about 61 percent of the total target set by the event’s organizers.

Pyeonchang Olympics Mascot
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
– Pyeonchang Olympics Mascot

This is considered moderately good news since 52 percent had been sold as of the end of November.

In terms of individual events, alpine skiing is the most popular, with 81 percent of the tickets being sold, following by cross-country skiing at 79 percent, short track speed skating at 74 percent and bobsleigh at 70 percent.

Surprisingly, the opening ceremony lags behind at 67 percent, though one of the reasons may be the cold weather that usually befalls the region during that time of the year. Korean media has reported that, in order to save money, the organizers did not install any extra heating functions in the new stadium that will be used for the opening ceremony, and since it is open to the elements it could prove to be a quite chilly experience.

Sales of Paralympics tickets has been decidedly worse. Only 37 percent had been sold as of December 28. Other reasons for sluggish sales have been tensions with North Korea, China’s lingering but unofficial discouragement of travel to South Korea to protest the installation of a U.S. made missile system, the chance that Russian athletes won’t show up because of sanctions due to doping allegations, and apathy on the part of Koreans in general.

In response to safety concerns, the government has reportedly been cracking down on “foreign undesirables” and actually deported 17 foreign nationals from Southeast Asia and Central Asia who, according to, “were believed to pose a terror risk.” The Winter Games take place Feb. 9-25, and the Paralympics March 9-18.

Management Companies Accused Of Antitrust Violations

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has accused some talent management agencies of breaking antitrust laws, citing contract restrictions that prevent talent from quitting the agencies or selling their services to other companies.

The charges were made by a special panel assembled by the FTC, which is calling for stricter enforcement of existing statutes. A final report will be issued this spring. Draconian contracts and employment conditions are standard throughout the Asian entertainment industry, especially when it comes to singers and actors, many of whom are scouted as teens (or even younger) and then cultivated from the ground up to be stars. Consequently, these agencies feel they deserve a return on their investment and forbid charges from leaving their care and taking their newfound skills to somebody else.

They even forbid the artist from going out on their own. The system is so entrenched that even when artists leave their agencies under proper circumstances they are almost always blackballed for a period of time by producers, promoters and other entertainment “users” without any overt prompting by the agencies they left. Consequently, the FTC pronouncement is quite significant, though it remains to be seen if the government will actually carry through on its threat.

Last year, a certain easing of the custom was observed after the phenomenally popular boy band SMAP broke up with three members leaving the powerful agency Johhny’s & Associates. Since then the three have managed to stay in the public eye as independent operators, though their activities have mostly been limited to Internet video channels. They still haven’t appeared on network TV shows or in concerts.

A New Year’s Farewell For Namie Amuro

The big news for this year’s version of Japan’s New Year’s Eve blowout, “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (Red-White Singing Competition), was the purportedly final performance by singer Namie Amuro, who announced earlier in 2017 that she was retiring. Amuro remains one of the biggest-selling stars in J-pop history, but has decided to hang up her microphone after she turns 40.

Predictably, the announcement of her appearance was put off until the last minute so as to attract even more attention to the program, which has been steadily shedding viewers for the past two decades as young people find better things to do on New Year’s Eve than sit in front of the TV.

Still, Amuro’s appearance on the show toward the end resulted in a ratings spike. In the Tokyo area, audience share for the first half of the four-hour program was 35.8 percent and for the second 39.4 percent.

However, the next day, her performance wasn’t the big news from the show.

That honor went to three members of the extremely popular female idol collective Keyakizaka46 who fell ill smack dab in the middle of their performance.

One member fell backward as the group formed a triangular formation, and another appeared to be shaking during another dance sequence. A third was reported to have fainted afterwards. According to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, all three women were hyperventilating during the show and recovered afterwards.

Some superstars obviously are not quite ready for the camera.