Asia News: BTS Army Marches; Kitec To Close; Mayday Rainout

Funeral wreaths set up by BTS (boy band) fans protesting
HYPING THE FEUD: Funeral wreaths set up by BTS fans protesting against HYBE are seen outside the K-pop record label’s headquarters. HYBE is in an internal conflict over management control with its affiliate agency, Ador, which represents NewJeans.(Photo by Kim Jae-Hwan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)


BTS Army Marches On HYBE

Though K-pop fans will do anything to support and boost the fortunes of their idols, they usually don’t feel the same way about their management companies. Right now, the hardcore fans of BTS – the self-styled BTS Army – are protesting vehemently against the group’s agency HYBE after it became embroiled in a legal shouting match against one of its subsidiary labels, Ador, which handles another A-list idol group, NewJeans.

The Army thinks the feud mirrors how HYBE takes advantage of BTS and doesn’t always work in the group’s best interest. The Army has even hired advertising trucks to park in front of HYBE headquarters to express their discontent. Adding fuel to the fire is a petition that’s currently circulating demanding that Big Hit, another label owned by HYBE, be investigated by relevant authorities for “manipulating music charts,” according to the Korea Herald.

Another HYBE-related act, the five-member girl group Le Sserafim, which recently performed at Coachella, came under fire for what some Korean culture watchers deem anti-patriotic material.

HYBE is the parent company of Le Sserafim’s label, Source Music. Some netizens say that the group’s video for the song “Burn the Bridge” is actually pro-Japan propaganda. One image in the video resembles the Japanese flag, and another seems to suggest the island of Dokdo in the Japan Sea (or the East Sea, which is what Korea calls it), which both countries claim as their own but Korea controls.

In addition, naysayers claim that during the Coachella performance there was background narration in Japanese by the Japanese member of the group, Sakura.

Supporters of the group have countered these charges by saying that nationalists are simply looking for any sign of Japanese sympathies in K-pop, which is extremely profitable in Japan. In any case, Le Sserafim easily transitions between Korean, Japanese and English in their lyrics and stage patter. It’s simply part of their more international outlook as an act.

In any case, according to the K-pop fansite Koreaboo, Source Music has already said it will take legal action against any malicious online posts against the group. Another media outlet, Moneycontrol, said that much of the bad feeling engendered by the matter seems to be directed at HYBE rather than at the group.


Kowloon Bay Exhibition Center To Close

Hong Kong’s Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Center, more popularly known as Kitec, will close this summer, reports The South China Morning Post. Kitec consists of shops, restaurants and offices, but it is also the home of the 3,600-seat Star Hall, one of the most important concert venues for homegrown music acts.

A consortium headed by Billion Development and Project Management will turn the site into “prime office space” as part of a US$2.6 billion redevelopment plan.

Joshua Chan Yee-jing, a concert and music festival organizer, told the newspaper, “For the longest time, Hong Kong did not have venues [like Star Hall] of similar scale or capacity. From an artist’s point of view, one step of the ladder will be missing.”

Chan cites the popular 12-member boy band Mirror as an example of an act that benefited from this series of venues. The group had its first show at Music Zone, which has already closed, before playing Star Hall and then the Coliseum in 2022.

Mirror is now playing arenas and large auditoriums on its first world tour. The common wisdom among music insiders in Hong Kong was that once an act sold out a few shows at Star Hall, they were ready for the Coliseum. The timing was important because often there’s a “queue for performers” waiting to play the Coliseum that could be “a year long.”

Losing Kitec will mean a substantial gap in the range of venues in the city, thus making it difficult to gauge if an act is ready for an arena.

In addition, Star Hall was the perfect concert auditorium for visiting artists who “enjoyed A-list status abroad but had a smaller fan base” in Hong Kong. It was also conveniently located in the heart of the city, so it was accessible to everyone.

For the time being there is no immediate replacement for Star Hall, though Chan told SCMP that market demand will likely work to fill the gap. Some organizers found the sound at Star Hall to be not optimal and often felt it necessary to augment the system in order to boost its quality.

One solution would be to adapt an existing venue that normally does not present music for concert events, such as Hong Kong Stadium, but in the long run, the professor thinks the authorities will turn to new development with concert halls in mind.

Mayday, Mayday

Veteran Taiwanese rock quintet Mayday had problems during its recent stopover in Hong Kong. Mayday were scheduled to play seven concerts at the Central Harborfront Event Space starting April 30 and ending May 8. However, the opening night gig, which was attended by 20,000 fans, was hit by a heavy thunderstorm two hours after it started.

Though the band had not finished the show, the organizers asked them to “call it a night,” according to the Straits Times. In a rare move, the band announced they would continue the performance online via their social media platforms, which they did at 10:30 that night, singing and chatting with fans for more than 30 minutes.

However, the rain persisted the next night as well, damaging a large LED installation above the stage, which caught fire. The band were forced to postpone the May 1 concert to May 9, the day after their scheduled last show in the city.