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South Korea lifts ban on cheering at concerts

South Korea has eased its coronavirus protocols and lifted its ban on clapping and cheering at gigs.

Fans were handed plastic clappers to emulate crowd noise at BTS’ Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul three-night residency last month, which marked the K-pop group’s in-person concert return in their homeland.

Just 15,000 people per night were permitted to attend the 70,000-cap Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on 10, 12-13 March due to social distancing restrictions. But with the number of Covid cases stabilising, most measures have now been dropped, although the indoor and outdoor mask mandate has been retained for the time being.

The news coincides with the release of a report by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, which estimated the huge economic impact when BTS perform in South Korea.

“Holding K-pop concerts can have a huge impact on our economy”

“If BTS normally holds a concert in Korea during the post-coronavirus period, the economic ripple effect will reach 677.6 billion won ($550 million) to 1.22 trillion won ($989m) for one performance,” it concluded, according to Allkpop.

The study also referred to the group’s 2021 run at Los Angeles’ 70,000-cap SoFi Stadium, which marked the first time they had been able to be face-to-face with fans since the 2019 BTS World Tour. Internal data showed that more than 70% of the attendees at the LA concerts were from states outside California or overseas.

“This analysis took BTS concerts as an example, but it shows that holding K-pop concerts can have a huge impact on our economy,” it added.

 


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Second K-pop arena planned for South Korea

A second arena dedicated to staging K-pop concerts is planned for South Korea’s capital city, Seoul.

It was announced yesterday (4 April) that South Korean IT giant Kakao and the Seoul metropolitan government have signed an agreement to start building the arena in Seoul’s northern Dobong district, this June.

Expected to be complete in October 2025, Seoul Arena will reportedly include a concert venue boasting state-of-the-art sound equipment, with a seating capacity of around 19,000 and a maximum capacity of 28,000 for standing events.

The arena will also feature a separate 7,000-capacity concert venue, as well as a cinema and commercial facilities.

Kakao said it expects Seoul Arena to attract some 1.8 million visitors per year and contribute to revitalising the local economy and bolstering the ecosystem of concerts.

Kakao said it expects Seoul Arena to attract some 1.8 million visitors per year

Kakao will reportedly be in charge of operating and maintaining the Seoul Arena for 30 years after it opens, while the venue will be owned by the city government.

Though Kakao has described the project as South Korea’s “first and largest” arena dedicated to K-pop, media giant CJ ENM and AEG began construction on a similar project last October.

The pair’s CJ LiveCity Arena, slated to open in Seoul’s Goyang City in 2024, is reportedly designed to accommodate 20,000 indoor attendees, with the capacity to extend to another 40,000 outdoors.

It is also said to be equipped with “the most powerful live performance infrastructure in the world”, including stage facilities, sound and lighting systems.

Centrally located between five of Korea’s largest cities, AEG projects the new venue will attract more than 20 million visitors annually.

 


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Clapping and shouting banned at BTS concert return

BTS fans will be banned from clapping and shouting at the group’s long-awaited return to in-person concerts in South Korea later this week.

The ministry for culture has permitted 15,000 people per night to attend the 70,000-cap Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on 10, 12-13 March.

However, Pop reports the shows will be subject to strict Covid protocols, prompting the band’s management Big Hit Music to supply attendees with clappers to emulate crowd noise.

“Cheering loudly, yelling, chanting, and standing up during BTS Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul is strictly prohibited according to government guidelines,” says the company in a statement. “Instead, we will be having a fan event using clappers.”

The K-pop superstars’ three Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul concerts, which will also be live-streamed, will mark the group’s first in-person shows in their homeland since the pandemic began. The country began allowing in-person concerts from November 2021, although concerts are currently capped at 50% capacity or 4,000 spectators for indoor facilities.

“Seating for the in-person performance will comply with spacing guidelines mandated by local government performance venue Covid-19 control measures”

“Seating for the in-person performance will comply with spacing guidelines mandated by local government performance venue Covid-19 control measures,” it adds. “The event may be changed or canceled depending on the social distancing level.”

All spectators are required to show proof of vaccination or recent negative test results while organisers must appoint a sufficient number of safety management workers.

The septet’s 10 and 13 March shows will be streamed online simultaneously, while their 12 March show will be available for ‘live viewing’ in cinemas across 60+ countries worldwide.

Some regions will be able to watch the performance live, while other parts of the world will be offered a delayed broadcast to better suit their respective time zones. The cinemas will also offer a replay of the live broadcast later in the day.

BTS returned to in-person performances in late November last year with a mini-residency at the brand new SoFi Stadium (cap. 70,000) in Los Angeles, California, which became the biggest single venue concert engagement by any act in almost a decade. According to Billboard, the series sold 214,000 tickets and grossed US$33.3million (€30.5m).

 


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BTS set for South Korea’s largest gigs since 2020

BTS are set to deliver the largest concerts South Korea has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

The record-breaking K-pop stars are slated to perform three in-person concerts at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul next month.

The ministry for culture has permitted the group to invite 15,000 people per night to the 70,000-capacity outdoor stadium on 10, 12 and 13 March.

The ‘Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul’ shows will be the group’s first in-person concerts in South Korea in around two and a half years.

The country began allowing in-person concerts from November 2021 though, currently, concerts are capped at 50% capacity or 4,000 spectators for indoor facilities.

BTS’s 12 March show will be available for ‘live viewing’ in cinemas in more than 60 countries worldwide

All spectators are required to show proof of vaccination or recent negative test results while organisers must appoint a sufficient number of safety management workers.

The band’s 10 and 13 March shows will be streamed online simultaneously, while their 12 March show will be available for ‘live viewing’ in cinemas across 60+ countries worldwide.

Some regions will be able to watch the performance live, while other parts of the world will be offered a delayed broadcast to better suit their respective time zones. The cinemas will also offer a replay of the live broadcast later in the day.

Last year, the septet marked their return to in-person performances with ‘Permission To Dance On Stage’ in Los Angeles, California. The group held a mini-residency at the brand new SoFi Stadium (cap. 70,000) on 27 and 28 November, and 1 and 2 December 2021.

The residency attracted approximately 813,000 people across the four sold-out shows, becoming the biggest single venue concert engagement by any act in almost a decade.

According to Billboard, the Los Angeles leg of their ‘Permission To Dance On Stage’ concert series sold 214,000 tickets and grossed US$33.3million.

 


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Save Our Stages movement reaches South Korea

Around 70 South Korean bands will take part in a livestreamed benefit concert in aid of the country’s shuttered music venues.

Taking inspiration from the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)’s Save Our Stages campaign in the US, which culminated in a US$15 billion relief package of the same name, #SaveOurStages Korea launches with a multi-day event taking place at five music venues in western Seoul.

Local acts Galaxy Express, No Brain, Jambinai and Crying Nut are among those taking part in the #SaveOurStages concert, which runs from 8 to 14 March in the Hongdae area of the South Korean capital, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Promoter CODE says most of the money raised in ticket sales and donations will be used to pay venues’ rent and compensate artists and staff, with the remaining amount going back into the local music scene.

Hongdae (pictured) is one of Seoul’s most popular shopping and entertainment areas, but has been hit hard by lockdown and social distancing measures. The greater Seoul area is currently under a 9pm curfew, with gatherings of five or more people banned.

 


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Fan tents and sanitiser showers at 1,200-cap K-pop show

An estimated 1,200 K-pop fans attended an innovative socially distanced live show intended to offer a blueprint for how live events may continue in South Korea while Covid-19 is still a threat.

The Live in DMZ concert, held as part of an annual event promoting peace in the Korean peninsula, was organised by the government of the province of Gyeonggi as a means of providing “comfort” to people who are tired of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, according to local media.

For the show, fans were placed in 300 clear dome-shaped tents, specially constructed for the occasion and capable of seating four people (from a single household/bubble) apiece. According to organisers, the tents aim are the first of their kind in the world, and prevent the transmission of potentially disease-carrying droplets between fans.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, the Gyeonggi authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist at the entrance to the concert, as well as a thermal temperature-checking system and a ‘distancing fence’ to prevent household mixing in the waiting area before fans took their seats, reports the Gyeonggi Daily.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist

For the purposes of contact tracing, all attendees were required to fill in a health-check questionnaire and provide their details in advance of the show. After filling in the form, ticket buyers received an automatically generated QR code to use for entry into the concert.

Explaining the concept to Cities Today, Lee Jae-gang, Gyeonggi’s vice-governor for peace, says: “By operating a web-based access system that enabled entry using QR codes for confirmation, the Gyeonggi provincial government was not only able to implement rapid and accurate quarantine procedures, but [can] also undertake follow-up management by once again sending self-health-check questionnaires to concert attendees two weeks after the event.”

Held from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October at the 41,000-seat Goyang Sports Complex in Goyang (a satellite city of South Korean capital Seoul), the Live in DMZ show featured performances from local stars including Monsta X, Mamamoo, Itzy, Loona, (G)I-dle, and Oh My Girl’s Seunghee and Yooa.

According to Cities Today, the novel set-up gave the stadium a capacity of 1,200 for Live in DMZ, while an additional 400 people watched the concert online.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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BTS gross an estimated $44m from weekend live streams

K-pop superstars BTS have grossed over $44 million from their ticketed virtual concert weekend, Map of the Soul On:e.

The two-day live stream was broadcast live from Seoul in South Korea on 10 and 11 October and reached 993,000 viewers in 191 regions.

This is a substantial increase from the group’s record-breaking livestream concert in June, Bang Bang Con: The Live show, which was watched from 104 regions.

General admission tickets for Map of the Soul On:e were priced at $81 for a weekend ticket; $90.89 for a weekend ticket plus entry to the online exhibition; and $44.55 upwards for a day ticket.

Production for Map of the Soul On:e is said to have cost eight times more than Bang Bang Con: The Live

For the Bang Bang Con: The Live concert, the group charged between $24 and $32 and grossed an estimated $18m.

Map of the Soul On:e, the world’s first streaming concert that applied both multi-view and 4K/HD, comprised a total of 23 performances across two 150-minute concerts.

Production for the show is said to have cost eight times more than Bang Bang Con: The Live, comprising four stages; technological features such as AR, XR and 4K/HD to bring viewers a more vivid and theatrical concert experience; and multiview live streaming that displays six screens from which fans could select their favourite.

Bang Bang Con: The Live, earned the group a Guinness World Record title for attracting the highest number of viewers for a music concert live stream ever.

A total of 756,000 viewers from over 100 countries tuned in concurrently to watch the online performance on 14 June, which was broadcast live from Seoul, South Korea, featuring a 12-song setlist and allowed fans to switch between six viewing angles.

 


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South Korea: Venues open, despite Covid-19 spike

There are no plans to reinstate social distancing in South Korea, one of the first countries to report cases of Covid-19, despite a spike in infections linked to a cluster of venues in Seoul, the country’s deputy health minister has said.

Health officials were placed on high alert last week when a 29-year-old clubgoer tested positive for Covid-19 after having visited five nightlife venues in the neighbourhood of Itaewon, potentially exposing thousands to the virus, according to UPI. At press time, there had been 76 confirmed patients who attended the Itaewon clubs, as well as 43 who were infected through secondary transmission.

While some Seoul nightclubs and bars were temporarily re-shuttered, the government has stood by its decision to ease restrictions by reopening offices, public facilities and sports centres, reports Reuters. Despite the reopenings, daily infections remain under 50 a day (for comparison, the still-locked-down UK, which has only 15 million more people than South Korea’s 51.6m, is still reporting more than 3,000 daily cases).

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review [at a later date] whether we should reconsider our distancing policy,” said Kim Gang-lip at a media briefing today (13 May).

Live entertainment began to return to Korea in March, after the January–February peak in infections, at a time when much of the western world was still formulating its response to the growing pandemic.

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review whether we should reconsider”

Key to South Korea’s success in getting the coronavirus under control is its robust programme of testing and tracing, which experts believe could provide a model for other countries to restart their economies while keeping their citizens safe. Kim also said today there will be no return to social distancing while authorities can trace at least 95% of infections.

According to the Guardian, “by the time the World Health Organization issued its plea in mid-March for countries to “test, test, test”, South Korea had spent weeks doing just that, quickly developing the capability to test an average of 12,000 people – and sometimes as many as 20,000 – a day at hundreds of drive-through and walk-in testing centres. The mobile centres conducted the tests free of charge within 10 minutes, with the results were sent to people’s phones within 24 hours. By mid-March more than 270,000 people had been tested.”

Outside Korea, several European countries and US states have set a timetable for reopening entertainment and hospitality venues, although all still include some form of social distancing – Dutch proposals to allow venues a maximum of 30 people, including staff, provided they remain 1.5 metres apart, for example, have been dismissed as especially unworkable.

The Event Safety Alliance, which recently released a ‘reopening guide’ for entertainment venues, describes how some countries are “using contract tracing to enable health authorities to track who has been to an event or location if an outbreak flares up. They are then contacted and instructed to seek medical advice.”

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens

This enables venues to reopen more safely, knowing that any outbreaks can be isolated and contained, though only South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Australia (which is tracking the virus using its COVIDsafe app), currently have the capability to do so, according to the guide. Additionally, “some societies are more tolerant of the perceived impact on personal liberty than others”, it warns.

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens, according to the Japan Times, where virus carriers’ contacts are “aggressively traced” using tools like GPS tracking on smartphones, credit card records and CCTV. “People’s movements before they were diagnosed are published on websites and relayed via smartphone alerts to inform others whether they have crossed paths with a carrier,” the paper adds.

While Korea-style contact tracing could provide the answer to reopening venues safely – and when faced with a choice between privacy invading contact tracing and socially distanced shows with 30 people, the latter arguably looks more appealing – not everyone is convinced.

Germany – whose testing and tracking regime is the envy of much of Europe – has warned it could reimpose lockdown after a rise in Covid-19 cases last week. “We always have to be aware that we are still at the beginning of the pandemic,” said chancellor Angela Merkel, “and there’s still a long way in dealing with this virus in front of us.”

 


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Korean musical theatre triumphs despite Covid-19

Several musical theatre productions in Seoul, South Korea, have reported near-full attendance rates for the past few months, reports the Korea Herald.

Productions of shows including Rebecca, Dracula:The Musical and Phantom of the Opera have enjoyed successful runs, even during the height of the Covid-19 epidemic in the country, which caused the cancellation and postponement of many concerts and festivals.

The international touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, produced by the Really Useful Group, began its run in Seoul’s Blue Square Interpark on Saturday (14 March), after wrapping up a two-month run in Busan.

Posting on social media after the “first weekend of packed houses in Seoul”, Australian soprano Claire Lyon wrote: “Thank you in advance to our audience members who continue to support us and for being so diligent in wearing masks and washing hands at the theatre.”

“Thank you in advance to our audience members who continue to support us and for being so diligent in wearing masks and washing hands at the theatre.”

“We feel confident that life will continue to go back to normal over here in the coming weeks (it already seems to be!). Sending love to those around the world whose livelihoods or health has been affected. These are uncertain times but we are soldiering on.”

The number of new cases of the virus reported in Korea has dropped greatly in the past few weeks. However, even at the peak of the epidemic in January and February, theatregoers appeared undeterred.

According to EMK Musical Company, an average of 92% of 1,255 available seats were occupied for the whole season of Rebecca, which ran from November to February at Seoul’s Chungmu Art Centre.

The show is embarking on a nationwide tour on 27 March, visiting 12 cities throughout the country.

Dracula: The Musical, which is produced by OD Company, began its run on 11 February at Seoul’s Charlotte Theatre, recording an average admission rate of 95%. The show is set to continue until 7 June.

Earlier this week, almost 300 theatres in the UK temporarily closed their doors following government advice to “avoid” visiting them. Theatres on New York’s Broadway shut down the week before.

 


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CAA takes on roster of K-pop giant SM Entertainment

Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed K-pop management company SM Entertainment for representation in all areas.

CAA will assist on all areas of SM Entertainment’s business, including lifestyle brands and advertising, in addition to live events.

Based in Seoul, SM Entertainment looks after artists including new supergroup SuperM, girl groups f(x), Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation, NCT sub-unit NCT 127 and Super Junior.

In 2016, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group bought US$30 million worth of shares in the entertainment company, equivalent to a 4% stake.

The deal marks the first time one of the major K-pop management companies – SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment (Blackpink, Bigbang) and Big Hit Entertainment (BTS, Tomorrow X Tomorrow, Lee Hyun) – has entered into such an agreement with a US talent agency.

“We are honoured and excited to be working with the incredible SM team to support the growth of what is already a huge fan base around the world”

“It is a great pleasure [to be] working together with the largest entertainment and sports agency in the US,” comments SM Entertainment executive director Soo-Man Lee, adding that SuperM and NCT 127 in particular “will expand further on the global market with CAA”.

“This contract is only the beginning of our collaboration,” continues Soo-Man Lee. “I hope to contribute to our forthcoming global entertainment business by providing new visions and creating more meaningful content.”

“Seeing an SM Entertainment show is an amazing experience,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Soo-Man Lee and his talented team have an incredible eye for high energy and charismatic talent. We are honoured and excited to be working with the incredible SM team to support the growth of what is already a huge fan base around the world.”

The companies have already worked together on SuperM’s upcoming North American tour, which kicks off on 11 November in Texas, and on TV appearances for NCT 127.

 


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