Coronavirus travel curbs on South Koreans prompt K-pop cancellations, especially in Japan

South Korean boy band Super Junior called off its tours scheduled to take place on March 25 and 26 in Japan, citing the Japanese government's measures to "curb immigration".
South Korean boy band Super Junior called off its tours scheduled to take place on March 25 and 26 in Japan, citing the Japanese government's measures to "curb immigration".PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - Japan's travel restrictions on South Koreans over the coronavirus epidemic have spurred cancellations of a string of K-pop concerts scheduled in Japan, threatening to hurt the Korean entertainment industry in its most lucrative market.

Japan said starting on Monday (March 9), people arriving from South Korea will be quarantined for two weeks. Tokyo also suspended visa waivers and the validity of existing visas for Koreans, followed by a similar move by South Korea, rekindling a diplomatic feud between the neighbours.

South Korean boy band Super Junior called off its tours scheduled to take place on March 25 and 26 in Japan, citing the Japanese government's measures to "curb immigration". South Korea's entertainment firm CJ ENM followed suit, postponing its annual K-pop festival KCON in Japan. KCON in Japan last year drew more than 88,000 fans, according to CJ ENM.

Japan's travel restrictions are a fresh blow to the entertainment industry in the wake of a fast-spreading virus.

K-pop events have also been cancelled or postponed elsewhere in the world because of the epidemic.

Singer Taeyeon cancelled her Feb 1 concert in Singapore, saying that she is worried about the health of fans. A Korean music festival in Los Angeles, originally planned for April 25, was postponed due to "travel restrictions in Asia".

At home, boy band BTS cancelled its scheduled April concert in Seoul amid growing concerns of the new coronavirus outbreak, its music label, Big Hit Entertainment, previously said.

Japan alone accounted for more than 60 per cent of South Korea's music exports, marking US$320.6 million (S$444 million) worth of exports in 2017, followed by China and South-east Asian countries, according to Statistics Korea.

"Entertainment firms and talent agencies will now gird for almost zero concert profits," said Mr Lee Ki-hun, an analyst at Hana Financial and Investment. "Not only ticket sales but also advertisement revenues are gone for the time being."

 

South Korea has suffered more than 50 deaths and over 7,300 infections in the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China, where the disease emerged late last year.