The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
This handout photo provided by Big Hit Entertainment on February 24, 2020 shows K-pop group BTS members attending a press conference to promote their fourth album 'Map of the Soul: 7' in Seoul. South Korea's coronavirus outbreak forced K-pop superstars BTS to livestream a conference promoting their new album from an empty hall on February 24, with members urging fans to take care of themselves. (Handout/Big Hit Entertainment/AFP/File)
Mounting fears of the coronavirus outbreak are taking a heavy toll on K-pop overall.
High-profile concerts like those of BTS and Twice are getting canceled, while multiple artists back from global events are being tested for possible infections.
On Friday, K-pop juggernaut BTS announced it has canceled the Seoul leg of “Map of the Soul” world tour scheduled for April to prioritize the health of artists, fans and staff.
The act’s label Big Hit Entertainment said the decision was unavoidable, quoting the city government’s strengthened restrictions on public events, as well as the gravity of the situation.
The four-day concerts in Seoul -- the first stop of the monthlong tour -- were expected to attract over 200,000 concert goers.
Despite the canceled Seoul concert, uncertainty still grows over the remaining tour dates in other cities as the virus continues to spread globally. BTS plans to start the US leg in late April and travel to dozens of cities through September.
A Big Hit spokesperson declined to comment on the remaining tours.
Other delayed or canceled events include: Twice’s Seoul finale concert of its “Twicelights” world tour; (G)I-DLE’s new album release and world tour; GOT7, Taeyeon and Kim Sung-kyu of Infinite’s Taiwan shows; and Red Velvet, NCT Dream and TVXQ’s Japan shows.
As offline public events are being canceled, some acts are turning to online platforms as alternatives.
Read also: Coronavirus concerns loom over K-pop
BTS held their comeback press conference in Seoul last month without reporters in presence. Instead, they received questions prior to the event and livestreamed the Q&A session via YouTube.
NCT 127 who will release a new album “NCT #127 Neo Zone” this Friday will promote the new album online only like recorded music shows and promotional video contents.
ITZY of JYP Entertainment is also said to be discussing alternative online promotions for their imminent comeback.
Despite such measures, concerns are mounting as a whopping 81 countries around the globe have either banned the entry of people traveling from Korea or strengthened quarantine steps as of Monday. It accounts for about 42 percent of the UN member countries.
“Since we can’t predict how many more countries will bar the entry or how long the outbreak will last, we can’t help but just cancel overseas shows. There’s no other solution,” said an industry source on condition of anonymity. Another source who manages overseas K-pop shows also said, “Since almost every global project is canceled, we don’t have much work to do these days. It’s an emergency, hard time for everyone.”
K-pop agencies that are promoting a rookie act or readying the launch of new acts also took the hit. In their early stages, it is crucial to build a stable fandom through various offline events that sometimes require close interactions between fans and artists. But not being able to hold any face-to-face meetings would seriously impact a budding act’s career, industry officials say. Rookies like UNVS, Everglow and Elris have recently canceled their showcases and fan meetings.
Earlier this week, the virus posed even more direct threat to the industry when two of the staff members who returned from Italy with soloist Chungha tested positive. Chungha, who tested negative, canceled all of her remaining schedule and went into self-isolation.
In the face of the blow, Korea Entertainment Producer’s Association recently said that it will closely look into the extent of damage and come up with countermeasures to minimize the virus’ impact on the local music scene.
Meanwhile, Korea reported 476 new COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of infections here to 4,212.
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