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Korean culture industry awakes from MERS slumber

Cinema, concert, theater attendance returning to pre-MERS levels

The Korean culture industry is slowly awakening from its pronounced slump, which came following the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak and the public’s ensuing reluctance to visit populated areas. As the past four days have seen no new cases and the anxiety begins to abate, movies that had postponed their premieres are now on screen and thriving, concerts once indefinitely postponed are revving up again and on-stage performances are seeing full theaters.

Cinemas regained their pre-MERS attendance rates over the weekend, reports said.

War film “Northern Limit Line,” which postponed its opening date to June 24 from June 10 following the initial bursts of MERS, attracted over 1.1 million viewers during the weekend of June 27-28, making for a total of over 1.85 million viewers and shooting to the top of the box office. “Jurassic World” and “The Classified File” came in at close second and third places, respectively.

In the music scene, tickets have sold out for the Hyundai Card Understage concert, which features rappers Loco, Gray, DonMills and Elo and takes place on July 5 in Itaewon.

Another Hyundai Card concert with singer Junggigo and rapper Mad Clown, previously set for June 6 and then canceled, has now been rescheduled for July 3 and nearly sold out, the company said Tuesday.

Live Club Day, which showcases a handful of indie bands and artists at ten different Hongdae live clubs each month, saw over 1,000 participants during its June 26 event.

“We were pleasantly surprised, because we had expected more people to cancel. Compared to the 1,500 participants that we had before the MERS outbreak, it’s not a bad turnout,” said Lee Eun-cil, who oversees public relations for the event.

“Of course, we were careful to check temperatures and provide masks and hand sanitizer at all the venues,” she added. 
A theater in Daehangno is being disinfected to prevent the spread of MERS (Yonhap)
A theater in Daehangno is being disinfected to prevent the spread of MERS (Yonhap)
The Ansan Valley Rock Festival, set for July 24-26, has not seen mass cancellations, either.

“Ticket sales are going strong and have been virtually unaffected by MERS,” said Kim Jung-wook, PR director for the festival. “Ultra Music Festival and the Rainbow Festival, which both took place mid-June and coincided with the first big wave of MERS, were hard-hit. Now, enough time has passed that people aren’t so worried anymore.”

On-stage performances are also reaping success. Tickets for the musical production of “Death Note,” starring Kim Jun-su of K-pop group JYJ, have sold out for every performance through Aug. 15.

“We were actually lucky enough not to be affected by MERS from the beginning,” said Hwang Bo-ye, PR manager for the show. “Since our June 20 opening, we’ve seen very few cancellations. I think people were reassured by our hygiene measures and did not want to miss out on the long-awaited show.”

By Rumy Doo (bigbird@heraldcorp.com)
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