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Korean shows suffer as Japanese visitors cancel

Chongdong Theater’s Korean traditional musical performance “Miso” ― whose audience is 30 to 40 percent Japanese ― is in a fix.

Japanese tourists have been canceling their tickets since the horrendous earthquake and tsunami that hit their country.

“Most Japanese groups that were supposed to come on the day the earthquake struck canceled. About 13 groups have canceled so far. Some who are already carrying on their schedule in Korea still come, but there are many cancellations by Japanese visitors and some are even unreachable,” a PR official at Chongdong Theater told The Korea Herald.

“Ticket sales are expected to decrease to 50 percent of our target until the second quarter this year. We just opened a three-month emergency meeting. Travel packages from Japan that include the show are getting canceled, so we are searching for different ways to invigorate ticket sales. I am aware that most shows and travel packages that used to have many Japanese visitors are going through similar situations.”

Chongdong Theater was dedicated exclusively to staging “Miso” last year, in response to the enthusiastic response from foreign visitors. 
A scene from “Miso,” which runs at Chongdong Theater in central Seoul. (Chongdong Theater)
A scene from “Miso,” which runs at Chongdong Theater in central Seoul. (Chongdong Theater)

Many other shows that usually have a large number of Japanese visitors are facing similar problems. Non-verbal performances such as “Nanta” and “Jump,” half of whose audience was Japanese, have been hit hard.

“Nanta” decided to close its Myeong-dong weekday 2 p.m. show until the situation in Japan settles. The show is staged in three theaters ― two in Seoul and one on Jeju Island.

“We have not been counting in detail since the earthquake happened, but it is for sure that the number of visitors has dropped. When the 2 p.m. show will resume has not been decided yet,” said a PR official at PMC Productions, the producer of “Nanta.”

Shows that planned to go abroad to Japan are withdrawing as well.

Part of South Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun’s Japan concert tour, “Toshiba Grand Concert 2011,” has been called off. Chung, the music director and chief conductor of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, originally planned to tour eight cities in Japan with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from March 9 to 19. Tuesday’s performance at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo was canceled the day before. The rest of the concert tour, which included a performance in Sendai, has been canceled.

K-pop group B2ST’s first-ever Japan concert has also been canceled, according to Universal Japan, its Japan-based agency. The boy-band released its first album in Japan last Friday and was planning to hold a concert, “Universal Dream Live 2011,” on Wednesday.

Show biz insiders say that it is hard to predict how long the situation will continue, but it could be a while before things return to normal.

“It is hard to grasp the circumstances yet because it will take time (for Japan) to straighten things out and there could be aftershocks as well. We are collecting data and getting in touch with people currently in Japan,” said Chongdong Theater’s PR official.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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