Asia News: BTS Fallout; Dream Concert; Japan’s National Theater To Be Razed


BTS Break Causes Fallout

BTS said that they were taking a break as a team in order to focus more on their solo work, an announcement that had serious repercussions for Korea’s entertainment world as a whole.

3 Asia Dream Concert
RED VELVET DREAM: K-pop group Red Velvet performs during the 2022 Dream Concert at Seoul Olympic stadium in Seoul, South Korea June 18. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Right after the announcement, shares of the boy band’s managing agency, Hybe Co., dropped 25% and while BTS’s surprise move was definitely a factor, it seems Hybe’s bad fortune mirrored that of the industry in general. Twenty-two entertainment companies together have lost 39% of their value this year, according to Bloomberg, which cited a bubble in Korean entertainment stocks in 2021.

What goes up must come down, and BTS’s announcement was just the lever that brought it about.

As to why BTS took this moment – when they are arguably at the pinnacle of their success – to call a time-out, the group itself confessed they were “exhausted,” but industry analysts think the reason was more complicated and strategic.

According to AFP, the prospect of military service, which most males in South Korea must enter by the time they turn 28, has become unavoidable for the seven members of BTS. As it stands, the group’s oldest member, Jin, is already 29, but had been given an extension while the government discussed whether the group deserved a pass on their conscription duties owing to their value to the country as cultural ambassadors, not to mention a huge source of income. It would seem that the dispensation, however, is not going to materialize.

One K-pop expert told AFP that the announcement was “logical” since the youngest member of the group is 24, which means successive military stints for the members would completely disrupt their activities as a group for the next four years or so.

Since there is ample evidence of K-pop stars, including groups, returning from military service with no loss of popularity, BTS could probably count on their fans being there in four of five years, but in the meantime it makes sense that as individuals they can keep the home fire burnings by investing in solo careers, which should keep their management solvent since their contracts are valid until 2026.

Still, the announcement was misinterpreted by fans and the media alike, who thought that it indicated BTS was breaking up, but the group quickly quashed these rumors on social media, reinforcing Hybe’s press statements saying there was no plan to break up the group, and as if to make good on that promise BTS on June 17 accepted the city of Busan’s request to serve as promotional ambassadors for its bid to host the World Expo in 2030. The Korean government projects that the Expo could mean $49 billion in terms of economic effectiveness for the country.

Dream Concert Marks Return Of Big Shows

The Korea Times reported that 45,000 people attended the 28th Dream Concert that took place June 18 at the Main Stadium of the Jamsil Sports Complex in Seoul, thus marking the “return of huge K-pop concerts” to South Korea after almost three years of in-person concert inactivity due to the COVID pandemic.

The open-air concert took place during “hot and humid weather” with occasional rain showers, and, according to the Korea Times, fans were allowed to scream and sing along to their hearts’ content, which seemed to be the real story. The concert also provided what the newspaper called a “snapshot of the K-pop world today” since it featured both up-and-coming stars and established marquee names.

Rookies, which one of the emcees referred to as “the fourth generation of K-pop,” were afforded fairly short sets, thus leaving the bulk of the show to the heavyweights, in this case NCT Dream and Red Velvet. Altogether 27 groups took the stage.

The concert was co-hosted by the Korea Entertainment Producers Association and the Korea Tourism Organization, which managed to attract 2,504 K-pop fans from 23 countries to a show that was also simulcast live over various platforms to other countries, including the U.S., Japan and Brazil.


National Theater To Be Razed

The Japan Arts Council has announced that the National Theater of Japan, located in central Tokyo, will close at the end of October 2023 and torn down to make way for a redevelopment project that will include hotels and restaurants as well as a new version of the theater, which presents traditional Japanese performing arts such as kabuki, bunraku (puppet theater) and noh. The reopening, however, will not take place until the fall of 2029.

The National Theater first opened in 1966, which means it has been operating for 55 years, a virtual eternity in terms of Tokyo real estate. However, the loss of the theater has met with some complaints from people who have become tired of PFIs, or Private Finance Initiatives, which tend to favor profits over legacy.

Another PFI is being debated hotly right now in another part of Tokyo. Jingu Stadium, one of the oldest baseball parks in Japan, will be torn down to make way for a shopping mall and high-rent offices, though what mainly bothers locals is the park that surrounds Jingu.

Almost all the trees, which are quite old, will be cut down for the development. The new National Stadium, which was built expressly for the 2020 Olympics, is in the same area and recent media reports say that the operators are hard put to find any use for the facility since it’s too big for soccer matches and Japan rarely hosts the kind of athletic meets it was built for.