Asia News: Caesars, Livestreams, K-Pop

Caesars abandons Korean Casino Plan

GGRAsia reports that Caesars Entertainment has abandoned its stake in a casino planned for Incheon, South Korea, to its former partner in the scheme, Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong. GGRAsia confirmed that the changeover occurred in late January through an official of the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority, the government organization that oversees the project, though the official did not state the reason for the move.

The casino plan is called the Midan City Resort Complex, which would cater exclusively to foreigners, since casino gambling is forbidden to South Korean nationals. 

Under the joint Caesars-Guangzhou plan the project was called RFCZ Korea, but now it is called R&F Korea. As such, the project put in a request to the country’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in early February to postpone the opening of the first phase of the scheme from March 17, 2021 to some time in March 2024. 

The ministry says R&F Korea must find another partner with casino operating experience, and reportedly will respond to R&F Korea’s request before April. 

Caesars, which was taken over by Eldorado Resorts last July,  had been previously pursuing a greater presence in Asia, but recently seems to have become less interested in the region. In August 2019 it pulled its application for a Japanese casino license. Japan, which has only recently legalized casino gambling, has yet to choose any overseas operators for a set of integrated resorts containing casinos that the government is set to approve for development. 

The Incheon complex is located near the main international airport that serves Seoul. Originally, the Caesars resort was going to include, in addition to the foreigner-only casino, a hotel, and 720 serviced apartments, suites and villas. 

The first phase of construction was suspended in February 2020 after 25 percent had been completed. According to GGRAsia, the two partners in the project had come to question the feasability of business projections for the scheme after the COVID-19 pandemic materialized.

Koreans Weigh In On Livestreams

Though internationally positioned K-pop groups like BTS and Blackpink have done very well financially by charging standard ticket prices for recent online concerts, a survey of South Koreans conducted by the country’s Record Label Industry Association in January found that 46.6 percent of respondents between the ages of 16 and 49 who have watched online shows say they would only watch such concerts if they were free. 

About 27% of those surveyed said they would pay for concerts but that they considered a “reasonable price” to be about 10,000 won ($9). 16% said they would pay if the ticket price was between 10,000 and 20,000 won, but only 6.4% would pay a higher price. 

According to the Korea Times, the average ticket price for the recent Blackpink online show, which brought in about $9 million for YG Entertainment, was 42,000 won. 

In related news, a free online concert, UNI-KON, which was organized by a new K-pop fan community app called Universe, attracted some 2.6 million viewers on February 14 from over 160 countries, according to the JoongAng Daily. 

Fourteen artists performed on the show, including Astro, Ateez, The Boyz, Kang Daniel, Monsta X and Iz*One. The concert lasted for 4 hours. 

The event was mainly staged to demonstrate the app’s premium features, such as high-definition picture, multi-view mode and stage effects. Subscribers can re-watch the concert through Universe’s VOD feature, which will also include behind-the-scenes video and interviews with artists. 

The app was launched at the end of January by a Korean game publisher and so far more than 4 million people have signed up in 188 countries, including the U.S, Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.


Malaysia Tries To Clean Up K-Pop

BlackPink On Red:
– BlackPink On Red:
Blackpink took on one of the U.S.’s largest festivals when it played Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival April 12. The group visited North America, Europe, Australia and Asia on its 2019 world tour.

According to the Korea Times, K-pop is as popular in Malaysia as it is anywhere else in Asia, but the lyrics of K-pop songs are sometimes too risque for the conservative sensibilities of the country’s Muslim majority. This has led to a movement to “sanitize” K-pop songs in such a way that local musicians can cover them without offending other Muslims. 

The leader of this movement is the pop record label Tarbiah Sentap, one of whose acts, a vocal group called Rabithah, has released cover versions of two Blackpink hits, “Ice Cream” and “Kill This Love.” 

“Ice Cream,” which Blackpink originally released as a duet with Selena Gomez, was roundly criticized for a lyric that some people said denigrated Moses, an important figure in several world religions. 

Rabithah not only removed the problematic line and changed the titles of the two songs, but shifted the devotional content from one that targeted a lover to one that honored God. Each song has attracted more than 300,000 views on YouTube.

The two songs are sung in a local a cappella style called pop nasyid, which mixes Western pop with Islamic themes and Malaysian musical elements. The Korea Times says it is very popular among Malaysian youth since it allows for global pop trends while preserving Muslim values. 

Other musicians have also used pop nasyid to localize K-pop songs, but the response has been more mixed. One Korean correspondent in Malaysia says that while some Muslims think the trend is positive, others think that it can antagonize different religious groups in the country. 

Moreover, many young Malaysian Muslims see no conflict between their religious faith and their love of global pop and feel that the onus against certain forms of pop music is mostly being forced on the population by the authorities. As one professor put it, younger Malaysians have a more cosmopolitan attitude toward world culture owing to greater educational opportunity and thus are more accepting of those cultures.

Nevertheless, the emergence of Islam-appropriate K-pop versions shows just how irresistible K-pop has become even in cultures where it would normally be forbidden, and not just because of the occasional salacious turn of phrase. K-pop also represents a certain measure of personal freedom that may be frowned upon in some places. 

In Thailand, K-pop was part of the pro-democracy movement, with songs by Blackpink and Girls’ Generation being played during street demonstrations. This political consciousness moved both ways. Last year, K-pop fans made news in the U.S. afer they “hijacked” a presumably white supremacist hashtag to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. At the same time, K-pop artists have often been accused of cultural insensitivity born of naivete, appropriating certain cultural trademarks without properly thinking about their effect on the people who live with those trademarks.