Asia News: KBYK Live, Olympics President, Korean SOS

Korean Agencies Join UMG, Kiswe In KBYK Live

On Feb. 10 South Korean entertainment agencies Big Hit Entertainment and YG Entertainment announced they were joining forces with Universal Music Group and Kiswe, which specializes in multi-view streaming technology, to launch a global digital live streaming platform. 

Last year Big Hit and Kiswe established a joint venture called KBYK Live, which YG and UMG subsequently said they would invest in. In September, KYBK Live launched VenewLive, a live streaming content platform, which YG and UMG are seeking to expand alongside Big Hit and Kiswe so as to allow the participation of artists signed to UMG and YG.

The core of the platfrom is Kiswe’s streaming technology, which, according to a press release, allows VenewLive to “customize each concert experience to fit the identity and characteristics of each artist while providing innovative and original performance experiences for fans to enjoy their favorite artists’ content in a uniquely customized, authentic and personal way.” 

These technologies have already proven their worth to fans through their use in two large-scale streamed concerts of Big Hit’s K-pop group BTS last year which drew worldwide audiences of 756,000 and 993,000, respectively. The shows offered a wide range of interactive premium features, including multi-view, 4K resolution, live chat and synchronized light stick functions.

– Wicked

Musicals Make A Comeback In Seoul

With the relaxation of social distancing rules in Seoul, stage musicals have returned with a vengeance. As soon as the first 25 performances of “Wicked,” from Feb. 12 to March 5 at the Blue Square went on sale they sold out, according to The Korea Herald. In fact, demand for VIP seats was so great that the normally 150,000 won ($134) tickets were going for 400,000 won on illegal secondary ticket sites. 

It should be noted that while distancing rules were eased, theaters are still only allowed to sell seats up to 50 percent of their capacity. The situation became so intense that the star of the show, Ock Ju-hyun, went on social media and asked the public to “please allow only those who really love the show to attend.” The entire run will finish up May 1. 

Tickets for 14 of the 18 performances of “Man of La Mancha,” starring superstar actor Cho Seung-woo, also sold out immediately after being postponed three times. 

In a statement, Cho said, “It is a difficult situation, but I hope the audience can see a small light of hope with the help of the show.” The musical will run through March 1 at the Charlotte Theater in eastern Seoul. 

In addition, the musical “Monte Cristo” extended its current run for three weeks until March 28. The show originally opened in November but was paused for two months due to stricter social distancing rules. Lastly, “The Last Empress” also extended its run after being postponed three times. 

Korean Indies Try To Save Their Stages

Around 70 indie bands will participate in a special campaign in early March called #saveourstages, whose purpose is to raise money to prevent live music halls from going under due to the pandemic. 

Among the performers are popular indie groups Galaxy Express, No Brain, Jambinai and Crying Nut, who will play at five music halls located in the Hongdae section of Seoul from March 8 to 14. The concerts will not have in-person spectators but will be streamed online. 

The benefit is being organized by a group called C.O.D.E., which will not make any money from the endeavor. All money raised through ticket sales and donations will go to help pay for these halls’ rental fees while they wait out the pandemic. Some money will also go to their staff and even some artists. Whatever remains will be used to reinforce the local indie scene. C.O.D.E. is inviting any organization to sponsor the event, and also welcomes artists and volunteers who want to lend their support during the eight-day run. 

According to Yonhap news agency the campaign is a local version of one presented in the U.S. by the National Independent Venue Association, which successfully lobbied for a $15 billion relief package through a campaign for donations to support smaller live music venues. 

For some Seoul venues it’s already too late, since several have already gone under due to financial stress. 

Olympics President Accused Of Sexism

(Kim Kyung-hoon/Pool Photo via AP)
– Yoshiro Mori
Yoshiro Mori, right, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, bows his head after a news conference in Tokyo Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

The clouds shadowing the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have become even darker in recent weeks. 

As surveys continue to show that the Japanese public is becoming less interested in holding the Games this summer, the president of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Committee and a former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, has been roundly accused of sexism after he gave a talk at an extraordinary meeting of the Japan Olympic Committee Council where he commented that adding more women to the council’s board of directors as advised by the Japanese government would be counterproductive since women tend to take too long to express their opinions. 

Despite condemnation from both within and without Japan, Mori refuses to leave his post but did retract his statement. The International Olympic Committee has said that it considers the matter closed with Mori’s apology.

However, hundreds of volunteers for the Games have said they plan to quit in light of Mori’s remarks and seeming lack of genuine remorse. The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper quoted one man who applied to be a volunteer guide that he was discouraged by Mori’s statement and subsequent behavior. Another volunteer wrote on social media, “That Mori can make remarks about women like that makes me doubtful that he really understands the purpose of volunteers and Olympic principles.”

The organizing committee says that so far 80,000 people are set to participate as volunteers, and given the increased costs resulting from the postponement, their participation is more important than ever. Nevertheless, higher ranking members of Japan’s ruling party, which Mori belongs to, have defended their colleague, saying that people should accept his apology. 

Shanghai Symphony Hosts New Year Concerts

Chinese New Year is traditionally a time when Chinese people move about freely in order to visit family and friends, but this year, like last year, the government is asking citizens to stay at home so as not to risk setting off a new wave of COVID infections. 

In line with this request, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will host a series of concerts both offline and online for the city’s residents. The first concert in the series took place Feb. 5 with original pieces by Chinese composers. The audience in attendance was made up partly by medical and other essential workers who have kept the city running smoothly during the pandemic. 

All the concerts are taking place as the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s home venue until Feb. 17, with some satellite performances taking place at malls throughout the city. Archive concerts will also be available for free streaming through social media platforms. In addition, the orchestra’s overseas “partner,” the New York Philharmonic, will provide recordings of past Chinese New Year concerts on YouTube and Facebook for local viewers starting Feb. 16.