Companies Speak Up As K-Pop Concerts Are Categorized As 'Gatherings' During Pandemic Instead Of 'Performances'

Companies Speak Up As K-Pop Concerts Are Categorized As 'Gatherings' During Pandemic Instead Of 'Performances'

Production companies said the Korean government is discriminating against K-Pop, as K-Pop concerts are categorized as 'gatherings', not 'performances'.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and wreaked havoc in South Korea last year, many K-Pop concerts have been canceled or turned into online contents. Unfortunately, this situation will likely continue for quite some more time. Part of the problem is in how the government categorizes K-Pop concerts, and now K-Pop production companies are together taking against their decision.

According to the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, all group activities are categorized into different categories, each with its own set of rules. While most would think that K-Pop concerts are under the 'Performances' category, they're in fact categorized as 'Gatherings' by South Korean law makers.

For that reason, K-Pop concerts are limited to just 100 live spectator while the Level 2 social distancing measures are activated, making them completely unavailable for companies from a financial standpoint. But why does the law consider K-Pop concerts as 'Gatherings' in the first place, when similar events such as musicals are classified as 'Performances'?

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare in South Korea, K-Pop concerts are unique in that fans often sing along to the songs the artists are performing. Since singing projects the voice, it increases the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. As such, the Ministry states that K-Pop concerts can't follow the set of rules created for 'Performances', which allow venues to be filled up to 75% capacity during Level 2 social distancing.

However, K-Pop companies aren't happy with the government's explanation. Kim Sang Wook, BTS' concert director from 2013 to 2019, said argued during the earlier days of the pandemic, when some offline concerts were allowed, fans still followed social distancing measures and refrained from singing along. "If singing along is a problem," he proposed, "The government can simply ban people from doing it."

According to Kim and other production company leaders, the government is discriminating against K-pop culture and music, making industry professionals feel marginalized. The director then explained that production companies are looking for equality, not preferential treatment - especially as industry staff are struggling to keep their job during the pandemic.

"The global health crisis has devastated our industry for over a year and pushed a lot of people over the edge. There must be some tangible solutions that can help them continue to live - there are online concerts, but profits from those performances are far less than those from live events, since the ticket prices are cheaper. Also, a large part of the profits goes to platform owners," - Kim Sang Wook

And they're not the only ones who believe K-Pop is being mistreated. Cultural anthropology professor Lee Gyu Tag said that even the military exemption clause for classical musicians shows that K-Pop is still seen as 'second-rate' by the government.

"The government still sees pop culture and music as second-rate, despite their global popularity. K-pop and classical, they are all music, and musicians should not be treated differently only because of their genres," - Lee Gyu Tag said.

Now, production companies are uniting against the measures. 38 production companies have recently formed an association. Their demands call on ministries, political parties, and government agencies to eliminate discrimination against K-Pop and compensate industry professionals for the damage done to their career.