Asia News: Arts Revenue Up In Korea; ‘Kōhaku’ Tanks In Japan; A-Mei Ticketing Snafu In Taiwan

A Mei
Visual China Group / Getty Images

Singer A-Mei (aka Kulilay Amit) performs onstage during Taipei 2019 New Year gala on December 31, 2018, in Taipei, Taiwan.


Arts See 80% Revenue Jump In 2021

The performing arts industry in South Korea saw an 80% increase in revenue in 2021 over 2020, the Korea Herald reports.
Though it’s good news, it’s also hardly surprising given that in 2020, due to the pandemic, many theaters and venues were closed. 
And while the country continued to be hit by waves of COVID-19 infections during 2021, the government became more adept at imposing social distancing rules that allowed for limited performances to take place in front of paying audiences.
Moreover, the vaccination rate for South Koreans increased significantly. 
According to the Korea Performing Arts Box Office Information System, there were approximately 12,000 theatrical plays, musicals, classical concerts and “other performances” staged in 2021.
Those events reportedly brought in revenues that totaled 307.1 billion won ($258.1 million).
That figure was 78.4% higher than the revenue total in 2020, when only 6,600 performances were staged.
The largest increase was in the musicals sector.
Musicals reportedly generated 234.6 billion won, followed by classical concerts, that brought in more than 33.4 billion won; and theatrical plays, that earned 25.3 billion won.
In 2020, most big budget musicals and stage performances were canceled outright due to travel bans that prohibited visiting artists from entering South Korea.
Strict seating rules played a major role, too, reducing attendance by as much as two-thirds. 
However, in the first half of 2021, crowd capacities for indoor theaters and concert halls increased by an average of 70%.
Mandatory two-week self-quarantine rules for visiting foreigners was relaxed for certain artists during the second half of 2021, as well.  
About halfway through the year, the government enacted a “living with COVID-19” policy that allowed for more relaxed rules, but toward the end of the year it reversed the scheme owing to a spike in new infections.
Nevertheless, industry insiders told the newspaper that “uncertainty still looms” for 2022. The general manager of a theater company in Busan said that regional operators were being especially cautious.
Though his venue has prepared more performances in 2022 than they put on in 2021, he said “there are still risks of COVID-19 variables, so it is not a safe situation. In particular, regional concert halls like ours are even more severely affected than those in Seoul, so it will take more time to recover.”
In related news, a major staging of the musical “The Lion  King,” set to open in Seoul on Jan. 9, has been delayed indefinitely, according to the Korea Herald, “as performers and crew face difficulties in flying into Korea after several airlines abruptly cancelled flights.”
Patrons who have purchased tickets through to the end of the month will receive automatic refunds and then given priority when reservations are resumed. The Seoul performances were originally supposed to run until mid-March, after which the production would have moved to Busan. 

Ratings For ‘Kohaku’ Tank

Ratings for Japanese public broadcaster NHK’s New Year’s Eve music extravaganza “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (Red-White Song Contest), traditionally touted as the year’s biggest pop music event in Japan, fell to a record low of 34% Dec. 31, according to Video Research Ltd., Japan’s main system for gauging viewership for television broadcasts.
From the 1950s to the late 1980s, ratings were usually over 60%, with the peak coming in 1963 when a whopping 81.4% of the TVs in Japan were tuned to the show.
Since the dawn of the 1990s, however, ratings have been continually dropping owing to various factors.
A major one is that younger people don’t stay home on New Year’s Eve anymore and those who do find more fitting entertainment on the internet and through other media.
And while NHK has tried to keep up with the times over the years by inviting the most popular new artists to perform, the viewership has always scanned slightly older, which means they also have to invite older acts that young people may not be interested in.
However, this year was exceptionally bad despite the fact that the pandemic has limited the number of live entertainment events taking place on New Year’s Eve. The ratings for 2021 were six points lower than they were in 2020.
One theory was that there were no huge hit songs this year that might attract more viewers.
In fact, even before this year’s show, there were rumors circulating throughout the Japanese media that this might be the last year for “Kohaku.”
A weekly magazine reported in December that the president of NHK had told some executives that he was thinking of dropping the show after 72 years.
The broadcaster has already announced it is doing a housecleaning that will result in the cancellation of several superannuated series, and, apparently, “Kohaku” is one of them.
The president assumed his position only two years ago and has been trying to think of ways to assert his leadership.
When a reporter last year asked him about “Kohaku,” he replied, “It is not unusual to reevaluate any long-running program.”
According to the pop culture website Soranews24, the reaction on Twitter was anything but negative. It seems many people feel it’s about time the show was dropped, but as Soranews24 commented, netizens like those who patronize Twitter are not “Kohaku”’s target audience anyway. 

A-Mei Ticketing Snafu

Taiwan has been spared much of the grief of the pandemic, though there is still anxiety on the island that infections could rise at any time. 
Nevertheless, Mandopop diva A-Mei decided to embark on a series of 12 concerts, her first in seven years, at the Taipei Arena starting in April.
According to Taiwan News, all 130,000 available tickets were gone within nine minutes after they went on sale.
However, problems arose with the name-based ticketing rules that were enacted to prevent scalping and resales.
Ticket buyers are required to provide their names and ID numbers during the purchasing process.
This information is then checked when the ticketholders enter the venue for the actual concerts. 
However, it was found that some 800 people said they gave the wrong information when ordering their tickets.
The news caused a scandal among other ticketholders who said they went through a great deal of trouble to secure their tickets only to see now a handful of people who, inadvertently or not, violated the rules and yet will be allowed to attend.
There were even accusations that the violators might be scalpers. 
A-Mei’s manager apologized for the faux pas, saying that the decision to allow the 800 scofflaws was made in “consideration” of the singer’s dedicated fans. Nevertheless, scalpers have taken advantage of the problem, and prices for second-hand tickets online have been as high as NT$110,000 ($4,000) for tickets that originally cost between NT$80 and NT$5,800.