Asia News: New Home For Ex-Johnny’s Artists; Bolshoi Canceled; NewJeans Goes To Court

2024 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 Day 2
COACHELLA K-POP: (L-R) Huh Yun-jin and Sakura Miyawaki of Le Sserafim, Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and Kazuha, Kim Chae-won and Hong Eun-chae of Le Sserafim perform at the Sahara Tent during Coachella’s first weekend at Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2024, in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)


Starto Entertainment Contracts With Ex-Johnny’s Artists

A new Japanese talent agency called Starto Entertainment has begun presenting concerts with acts that were formerly under the management of disgraced entertainment company Johnny & Associates. On April 10, Starto opened its official website and made public its corporate structure. Its first concert, featuring the boy band Kis-My-Ft2, took place that night at Tokyo Dome.

Starto was established in October to manage the performers of Johnny’s, which was dissolved after the BBC aired a documentary about widespread sexual abuse of the powerful agency’s male stars at the hands of late founder and CEO Johnny Kitagawa.

Johnny’s subsequently changed its name to Smile-Up, which has been in charge of paying compensation to abuse victims. So far, 973 people have filed claims, with 356 reaching settlements as of the end of March, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.

On its website, Starto says it “has contracts” with 295 performers comprising 28 musical acts. As part of its ongoing efforts to distinguish itself from Johnny’s, the company is offering seminars on sexual abuse and respect for human rights.

NHK reports that Starto has “no capital relationship with Smile-Up,” which is nominally in charge of managing Starto acts’ fan clubs.


Bolshoi Ballet Gala Canceled

A three-day gala ballet performance in Seoul featuring principal dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet was canceled April 15, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Ballet & Model, the show’s organizer, announced the cancellation after a new proposal for the performances was rejected by the concert hall where they were to take place starting April 16.

Originally, the series, titled “The Bolshoi Ballet Gala Concert 2024” in Seoul, was to take place at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, featuring 20 dancers including 12 from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet.

However, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the performances were under public scrutiny, especially following the cancellation of a ballet performance scheduled for March in Seoul featuring prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, a Ukraine-born Russian who is said to support Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the cancellation of the Zakharova ballet, Ballet & Model decided to retitle its gala presentation as “Super Ballet Concert of Ballet & Model 2024” in Seoul with a reduced cast and program, though it still included members of the Bolshoi.

Nevertheless, the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts did not approve the changes on April 12.

According to Yonhap, the center “added that it would not have granted initial approval for the performance if the program had been presented in its current form.”

Reuters reports that the Russian embassy in South Korea expressed “deep regret” over the cancellation in a statement, that added, “We can’t help but notice that South Korea is now showing a certain tendency in its approach to cooperation with Russia in the cultural field as well.”

South Korea has joined in economic sanctions against Russia, which includes suspending transactions with Russian institutions and regulating exports of some strategic items as a result of the invasion.

There has also been friction between the two countries with regard to South Korean claims that Russian agents have been linked to North Korean missile programs.

NewJeans Asks Google For YouTuber ID

K-pop’s hottest new act, NewJeans, has filed a request with a court in California to compel Google to reveal the identity of the party behind a YouTube account that is “spreading defamatory statements” about members of the group, the New York Times reports.

NewJeans lawyer Eugene Kim claims that a YouTuber produced “dozens of videos” that included the defamatory statements.

The court filing says the videos have been viewed more than 13 million times.

In the filing, Kim said the YouTuber engaged in “name-calling or other mocking behavior” against NewJeans, which has inflicted “significant reputational damage” and continues to do so.

K-pop artists have intense fan bases in Korea, which means they are also often the targets of vicious online insults, which is illegal in South Korea, NewJeans’ management company, Ador, said.

Generally, defamatory comments about K-pop groups are couched in criticism about a certain artist’s looks, skills and private behavior, and defamation suits are often filed in order to “identify and arrest” the perpetrators within South Korea, says the Times.
The problem in this case is that the cited party is using a social media platform operated outside of the country.

Kim contacted Google for information but, receiving none, filed a motion with a court in California “under a federal statute that allows people to obtain documents needed in a foreign proceeding,” according to the Times.