Asia: Arashi Announces Hiatus, K-pop Down With The Sickness, Jacky Cheung Arrests

Arashi – Arashi
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Arashi Announces Hiatus
The very popular Japanese boy band Arashi dominated the news cycle in Japan over the weekend of Jan. 26 after its members held a news conference to announce it would “suspend operations” at the end of 2020. 
The quintet, which at the moment is the biggest money-maker in the storied roster of all-male acts under the umbrella of the powerful talent agency Johnny & Associates, told assembled reporters that they had been mulling retirement for some time.
According to Kyodo news agency, Satoshi Ono, the group’s 38-year-old “leader,” said, “Around the middle of June 2017, I told other members that I wanted to end the activities as Arashi for now and that I wanted to live freely. I’ve discussed this many times with other members and decided that the date will be the end of 2020.”
The news comes exactly two years after Johhny’s previous top boy band, SMAP, stopped group activities and broke up. 
Two SMAP members have remained with Johnny’s as solo artists while the remaining three have struck out on their own as independent agents who nevertheless often work together. In the last two years, these three individuals have managed to scrape together a fair amount of lucrative work as actors and commercial talent, which is very unusual in Japan. 
Normally, when a talent leaves their longtime agency, they tend to be shunned by the kinds of production companies who bought their services previously. In a sense, the end of SMAP has emboldened other top-notch celebrities to go out on their own. It is not clear if the five members of Arashi will remain with Johhny after they cease working as a group, though Ono suggested he originally thought he would have to leave the agency. In any case, he says he will “take a break” from show business after the group disbands. All five members already get a great deal of work as individuals on television variety shows and dramas. One of the members, Kazunari Ninomiya, even starred in Clint Eastwood’s 2006 war film, “Letters From Iwo Jima.”
Arashi debuted in 1999 and quickly became one of Japan’s biggest selling pop acts, and the reaction to the news of their dissolution was met with a great deal of consternation from fans, who asked them to reconsider their decision through fan site posts and social media. The news was one of the top search items on Weibo, China’s top microblogging site, as well. The Japanese media is speculating that Arashi may be featured prominently in the opening or closing ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 
The announcement also generated a great deal of speculation from the Japanese show biz press about Johnny’s prospects. For years one of the most powerful talent agencies in Japan, Johnny & Associates has had to contend with not only an aging roster of talent whose sales point was always their youth and vitality, but an aging management team as well. Johnny Kitagawa, the controversial 87-year-old founder of the company, hasn’t been involved in its operations on a daily basis for at least a decade, according to some reports. The company is basically being run by his sister, Mary, and her daughter. Several weeks ago, Hideaki Takizawa, one of Johnny’s biggest stars for the last 20 years, announced he was retiring from performing, and at the end of January it was revealed he would become the president of a new subsidiary of Johnny called Johnny’s Island, which initially will be in charge of reforming an existing boy band into something more viable. 
K-pop Down With The Sickness
Korean K-pop fans are begging their heroes to cancel or postpone upcoming tours of Japan due to an influenza epidemic that has sickened a reported 2 million people on the archipelago, Korea’s Joongang Daily reports. 
Popular K-pop groups EXID and BTS are scheduled to launch Japan tours this month, and social media has been flooded with pleas from fans to rethink their plans. “I hope, for the sake of all idol groups, that all agencies will cancel tours to Japan,” said one Twitter user, according to Joongang.
Already, Korean travel agents are reporting significant numbers of cancellations of tours to Japan by Korean customers. The flu outbreak has received a great deal of media attention throughout Asia, sparked mainly by the report of a woman in her 30s who, suffering from a high fever, became dizzy waiting for a train in Tokyo and fell onto the tracks, where she was killed by an oncoming train.
The Korea Center for Disease Control, however, has tried to calm fears by saying that the so-called epidemic is no worse than other flu outbreaks, and probably less virulent than it has been the past few winters. 
Also, given the strain that diplomatic relations are undergoing currently between Japan and South Korea due to security issues, K-pop groups may feel it is their duty to risk sickness and play for their Japanese fans in order to foster goodwill.

Jacky Cheung Scalping Arrests
According to the South China Morning Post, 10 men from mainland China were arrested in Hong Kong for reselling 46 tickets to concerts by Cantopop star Jacky Cheung. They were asking for double the price of the face value of the tickets. 
The charges were violating immigration laws, since the men, aged 20 to 59, were found to be “breaching the conditions of their stay” in the city, which they entered using “two-way permit” papers that mainland residents can use to visit Hong Kong. One of the conditions for the permits is that holders can not work or otherwise earn money. 
The men were arrested outside the Hong Kong Coliseum by undercover policemen and immigration officers on two successive Mondays. Among the tickets seizer were two that are distributed as gifts for guests of the concert organizers. They were on offer for $HK2,500 ($320) each.