SEOUL / BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – Chinese concert organizers are asking South Korean groups for permission to perform in the country, according to people familiar with the issue, a sign of growing optimism about the thaw in relations between the two countries. two countries.
Relations between Beijing and Seoul are tense since South Korea decided in 2016 to host a US missile defense system, which China strongly opposed.
Since then, no major South Korean musician has performed in China, and the promoters have not bothered to invite South Korean groups to participate in protests because of the belief that the Government would reject such visa applications.
But they have recently started making such requests, according to people who have asked not to be named because the subject is politically sensitive. It is not clear whether the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism is inclined to endorse one or the other of these candidacies, they said.
K-pop artists such as BTS, which became the first South Korean band to rank at the top of the US charts, have not been able to obtain permits to play for years as part of a larger campaign against South Korean companies.
The break prompted China to launch a series of punitive measures that cost the South Korean economy billions of dollars in lost business.
This is why the issue of these permits could be much more important than the fate of some concerts.
"People are getting ready," said Archie Hamilton, general manager of China-based music promotion company Split Works. "There is a lot of money out there."
Shares of YG Entertainment Inc., which manages BlackPink, gained 2.7% at the Seoul trading session on Wednesday (20 February).
JYP Entertainment, the agency of the South Korean women's group Twice, grew by 1.4%, while that of SM Entertainment rose by 2.9%, against 1.3% of the benchmark Kospi.
Big Hit Entertainment, the tightly held BTS manager, declined to comment. The Chinese Ministry of Culture did not respond to a request for comment sent by fax.
China's anger following South Korea's decision in 2016 to deploy the High Altitude Zone Defense System, known as THAAD, was costly.
Chinese agencies have stopped selling group tours in the country, stores of South Korean retail giant Lotte Group have been suspended for fire safety violations and South Korean TV shows have begun to disappear from Chinese streaming services.
The Bank of Korea estimated that China's backlash slowed economic growth in the small Asian country by 0.4 percent that year.
But there are signs that China's anger is shrinking.
The ban on group tours was partially lifted in 2018, South Korean dramas are back on television and K-pop songs are being promoted on Chinese streaming services.
K-pop has held up relatively well despite the actual ban on performances, while the demand for music from BTS, Girls & # 39; Generation and BlackPink has exploded in China, according to Mr. Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective , which provides label services to hundreds of countries in the South. Korean acts.
Political tensions have not prevented Chinese internet giants Tencent and Alibaba Group from having links with the three largest South Korean music companies. The Korean music industry generated sales of $ 98 million ($ 132 million) in China in 2016, its second largest overseas market after Japan, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service.
"K-pop is an international pop in Asia," said Mr. Cho. "Chinese companies are actively signing exclusive deals and investing in music companies, which demonstrates the growing confidence in the market."
But musicians draw much more money from the tour than recorded music. BTS, the first South Korean pop group to top Billboard, earned US $ 40 million on its last world tour.
"Many South Korean artists would like to tour (in China)," said Jordan Corso, booking agent for Beijing-based developer Modern Sky Entertainment. "It's too big a market."