Asia News: Coronavirus, Seoul, YG Entertainment

Coronavirus Forces Cancellations

As of Jan. 26, the Chinese territory of Hong Kong had recorded six nonfatal cases of the Wuhan coronavirus that has been gripping China.

Although the disease had not killed anyone in Hong Kong at publication, the health crisis had caused the cancellation of a number of high-profile concerts in the territory.

Hong Kong Superstar Andy Lau was set to play a run of 12 shows in his native city starting Feb. 15 but announced last week that he would postpone all of them.

According to the Straits Times, Lau wrote on his website, “Dear friends and families, I had hoped that the My Love concerts could go ahead as scheduled to fulfill my promise to everyone. But because of the virus and in view of ensuring the health and safety of the audience, I’ve decided to cancel the Hong Kong concerts. Sorry about this. I wish that everyone will remain healthy. And that we get through this difficulty together.”

The concert organizer has said they will refund all tickets.

Lau was also scheduled to perform in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the crisis, from April 17-19, and there is no word if he plans to go ahead with the shows. Reportedly, his management agency is in negotiations with the concert organizer.

At the same time, fellow Hong Kong star Leon Lai postponed two shows in Macau slated for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Studio City Event Centre. According to local newspaper Apple Daily, the organizers announced the cancellation on Jan. 26 “in order to ensure public health safety.” No new dates were announced

The Wynners, a veteran Cantopop band that dates back to the ’70s and which features singing star Alan Tam, also postponed a Macau concert on Feb. 1.

Other local acts that have either postponed or cancelled concerts due to the epidemic include Taiwanese singers Steve Chou, Angela Chang and Jolin Tsai; Malaysian singer Fish Leong; and Chinese-American singer Wang Leehom.

The cancellations are not just being carried out because of health considerations. In some cases, the epidemic is interfering with logistics. Hong Kong singer Miriam Yeung has postponed a concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium set for Feb. 8. According to promoter Live Nation the reason is that “due to the current freight and travel conditions in China, it is not possible to complete the staging according to production requirements,” since all the equipment must be shipped from China.

In addition, two of Hong Kong’s biggest tourist attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, have closed down temporarily in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Though the number of cases is low, the city has declared a state of emergency, which means limitations to some transportation connections with the mainland. In addition, all incoming visitors must be screened, thus cutting back significantly on the number of theme park guests. However, the attendant resorts remain open for business.

In a statement, Hong Kong Disneyland said, “As a preventative step in accord with prevention efforts happening around Hong Kong, we’re temporarily shutting Hong Kong Disneyland park beginning January 26 from concern for the health and security of our guests and cast members. We are in close contact with health authorities and the authorities concerning the situation and will announce a reopening date as soon as they determine it’s advisable.”

Given that both parks have recorded losses in recent years, the closures during the big New Year holiday will likely be a significant blow to their bottom lines, on top of the political unrest that has also cut into attendance.

Critics Question Seoul Venue Plan

In the past year, local governments and private companies in South Korea have announced an ambitious plan to open large-scale music facilities in the Seoul area to make up for a paucity of dedicated music venues in the capital and take advantage of the world-wide K-pop boom. These facilities include the country’s first exclusive K-pop arena that will seat more than 10,000; four auditoriums; an integrated resort; and various other venues that will hold between 11,000 and 20,000 people.

However, according to the Korea Times, there has been pushback from some experts over the plan. One critic said that these players are jumping the gun and before spending so much money on infrastructure they should guarantee the content.

The individual said that in the past, some local governments opened sites that were used for Korean TV dramas popular throughout Asia, but they all went out of business because they couldn’t get repeat business.

Though there would seem to be a difference between TV drama locations and concert venues, the critic points out, “What is important is to keep producing global K-pop stars to secure quality content. [Regional] governors only want to erect buildings because it’s an easy way to give themselves credit for something.”

The newspaper explains that while K-pop continues to grow, South Korea’s K-pop-related tourist industry is stagnating. The number of foreign visitors who came to attend K-pop concerts in 2015 was a little over 1 million, and while that number increased to 1.42 million in 2017, it has not grown ever since.

A cultural exchange researcher told Korea Times that while K-pop is rising in popularity overseas, such popularity doesn’t translate into more visitors, especially since many of the more major K-pop acts are now touring overseas and the internet makes it possible to obtain recordings easily. He also points out that the venues being planned will not all be in central Seoul, and that overseas tourists may have trouble accessing them.

G Dragon
AP Photo
– G Dragon
During a press conference in Hong Kong.

YG Warns Against Fake Tickets

For months rumors have swirled in the South Korean media about the future doings of popular K-pop producer and performer G-Dragon of the boy band Big Bang after his Oct. 26 discharge from the military. One prominent rumor was that G-Dragon would be performing soon in China.

The singer’s management company, YG Entertainment, has come out to warn Chinese fans that no plans are in the works for a concert and that they should not buy tickets that are obviously fake.

According to the Korea Herald, YG released an official statement on Jan. 22 stating that the company had come across “fake news” about the supposed concert on several online sites, including WeChat, which is widely used in China. The sites say that some people have already preordered tickets, in fact.

“All information about concerts and global tours are provided on YG’s official website,” says the announcement. “Please note that any concerts that are not confirmed on the official website are fake.”

As for events that G-Dragon will carry out, he showed up at Paris Fashion Week and will make an official comeback appearance with Big Bang at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the spring. All four members have now completed their military duties.