Asia News: BTS, Yo-Yo Ma, Chage And Aska & More

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BTS teams up with Good Morning America to kick off the 2019 Summer Concert Series in Central Park in New York City, N.Y. on May 15.
BTS Announces Japanese Fan Meetings Despite Diplomatic Tension
Kings of K-pop and, for the moment at least, the world, BTS has announced that it will hold a series of fan meetings in Japan later this year. During fan meetings, groups not only perform but also meet and greet their most loyal fans at selected venues. 
In July, BTS played to about 210,000 Japanese fans and has been hailed as a needed bridge between Japan and South Korea since diplomatic ties between the two countries are at their lowest in years due to historical, economic and security-related issues. Presently, many Korean consumers are boycotting Japanese goods and services. 
However, the politics of the strain have finally made themselves felt through BTS’s home fans. According to the Yonhap News Agency, many of the boy band’s own Korean followers are lobbying their management company, Big Hit Entertainment, to cancel the Japan fan meetings set for the Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba and the Kyocera Dome in Osaka in November and December, respectively. These fans have launched a hashtag in English: #JAPANFANMEETING_CANCELIT.
One wrote on Twitter, “At this time of bad South Korea-Japan relations, BTS will be subject to criticism if they hold fan meetings in Japan. Would you agree to Japanese fan meetings even if it means the artist you love would be criticized?” Another wrote, “Big Hit, please chill out. A Japanese fan meeting? At a time my friends don’t use even Japanese stationery these days…Are you serious?”
There are also many fans who support the fan meetings with a Korean hashtag that translates as #NATIONS_DON’T_MATTER_IN_MUSIC.
For the record, the diplomatic row has not significantly had an adverse effect on the popularity of K-pop in Japan. Two of the biggest female K-pop groups, Twice and Blackpink, are scheduled to do major tours in Japan this fall. So far, BTS has not answered the naysayers in its fan base and may simply ignore the fuss so as not to get those fans unnecessarily agitated. But it should be noted that the naysaying fans are mainly targeting Big Hit, not their idols.

Yo-Yo Ma Announces Korean Performances
This summer, cellist Yo-Yo Ma will bring his international Bach Project to the Korean peninsula. 
The Bach Project celebrates the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, specifically his Unaccompanied Cello Suites, and is taking place over a two-year period in 36 cities (one for each suite). The 64-year-old American cellist will play the suites uninterrupted Sept. 8 at the Olympic Park in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. 
In April Ma played the suites in cities near the U.S.-Mexico border to make a statement about the Trump administration’s immigration policy. The Seoul concert is meant to focus on the hope for peace between North and South Korea.
According to the Korea Herald, one day after the Seoul recital, Ma and pianist Kim Cheol-woong, who defected from North Korea, along with several other artists, will play a concert at the demilitarized zone between the two countries, which are still technically at war. 
The concert has been arranged by the Korea Tourism Organization to commemorate the signing of a military agreement between the two Koreas on Sept. 19, 2018. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has said the idea of participating in the DMZ concert was Ma’s. The Herald says that Ma’s intentions are “in line with the cause” of his Bach Project. 

Chage And Aska Officially Disbanding
In an act of sad irony on Aug. 25, which marked the 40th anniversary of their professional debut, the Japanese pop duo Chage & Aska announced their dissolution after several years of strained circumstances. 
The pair, which has sold more than 30 million records, was one of the biggest Japanese pop acts of the 1980s. During the ’90s and ’00s they split and reformed several times, and were often even more popular in comeback mode. In 1991, their biggest single, “Say Yes,” spent a record 13 weeks at the top of the charts, selling more than 2.8 million copies. It is the sixth best-selling song in Japanese pop history.
The two announced an “indefinite suspension” in 2009 and both singers embarked on solo careers without formally splitting. However, Aska was subsequently arrested for drug possession and convicted in 2014. He was given a suspended three-year jail sentence but arrested again for drugs in 2016. This time, he was eventually released for lack of evidence, but the damage was done. 
Apparently, Aska has not spoken to his partner since the second arrest, and it was he who precipitated the split. Through his lawyer he insists that he is not on bad terms with Chage, who reportedly does not want to dissolve the group, but Aska still felt it would be better to call it a day. 
Placido Domingo Concerts Still On In Japan, Despite Harassment Accusations
At around the time that accusations of sexual harrassment were being aimed at the Spanish opera star Placido Domingo in early August, promoters in Japan were announcing a pair of high-profile duo concerts in January featuring Domingo and superstar soprano Renee Fleming. In subsequent weeks, Domingo’s performances in the U.S. with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera were canceled, though a high profile concert in Salzburg not only went ahead as scheduled, but resulted in a standing ovation for the famed tenor. 
Tickets for the Japan concerts, which will take place in Tokyo at the end of January, went on sale in late August with no indication that the concerts would be affected by the ongoing investigation into the allegations, though the story has been carried extensively by local media. In addition, they seem to have no effect on a special performance that Domingo is slated to do next April in Japan in Tokyo in collaboration with the great kabuki master Ichikawa Ebizo as a runup event to the Tokyo Olympics. The event was announced earlier this year to great fanfare.