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

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.

FILE PHOTO: Members from South Korean K-pop group Super Junior pose on the red carpet during the Mnet Asian Music Awards in Hong Kong, China December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Japan said starting Monday, 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 neighbors.

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 canceled or postponed elsewhere in the world because of the epidemic.

Singer Taeyeon has canceled her Feb. 1 concert in Singapore, saying that she is worried about the health of fans.

A Korean music festival in Los Angeles, originally planed for April 25, was postponed due to “travel restrictions in Asia.”

At home, boy band BTS canceled 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% of South Korea’s music exports, marking $320.6 million worth of exports in 2017 followed by China and Southeast Asian countries, according to Statistics Korea.

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

South Korea has suffered 51 deaths and 7,382 infections in the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China, where the disease emerged late last year.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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