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Ultra Korea 2019 wraps up, troubled with hiccups

Ultra Korea 2019 wrapped up three days of festivities on Sunday, but the Korean leg of the annual electronic dance music festival was troubled with hiccups that included last-second cancellations by headliners and controversy over its operations.

Misfortune crept up on the event last Wednesday when organizers notified fans that Martin Garrix, one of the main headliners whose act was supposed to be the main stage finale for Friday’s event, had to cancel due to an ankle injury he sustained in Las Vegas.

Partygoers seemed to have dodged a bullet when the skies cleared on day one of the festival despite the forecast of rain, but an earlier downpour had forced a delay in the construction of the main stage, leading to a change of schedule.

Despite the last-minute cancellation of Martin Garrix, participants at the festival rocked on, and Porter Robinson performed last on Friday’s main stage.

Ultra Korea 2019 (Ultra Korea)
Ultra Korea 2019 (Ultra Korea)
Ultra Korea 2019 (Ultra Korea)
Ultra Korea 2019 (Ultra Korea)

The cloudy weather on Saturday provided just the right temperature for the fans to jump up and down to the music.

As always, the festival was filled with music fans in clever costumes, or provocative and daring attire. A man in a T. rex costume was spotted chasing another dressed up as a guy being bitten in the behind by his Labrador dog.

The event was held for the first time at Everland Speedway in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, instead of the Seoul Olympic Stadium that had hosted seven previous editions. While this meant more space for the event, sharing a venue with one of the busiest theme parks in Korea on a weekend led to heavy traffic congestion -- it was a 30-minute wait just to cross the street from the Everland shuttle area to the Speedway, for example.

Regardless, the music and festive atmosphere was as impressive as ever, with the lineup including Justin Oh, Josh Pan, Infected Mushrooms, Underworld, Hot Since 92, Art Department and Alter Ego at the main stage, the live arena, and the Resistance and Ultra Park stages.

By the time Knife Party took the stage around 7 p.m., the area around the main stage was jam-packed with eager fans. It was all uphill from there, as the DJ fed the fanatical crowd the frenzy of fun they’d come out to enjoy.

Skrillex, who turned out to be the only one of the three closing acts who didn’t cancel, knew how to take the party to another level as he shot an array of favorites to the party-rockers gathered in Yongin. Around 10 p.m., fireworks torched the sky as the DJ wrapped up the near-perfect night.

Unfortunately, the organizers this year decided the party could not continue on. Ultra Korea did not host the traditional after-party due to concerns stemming from recent controversies about drug use at nightclubs.

In fact, concerns about drug use on site were so serious that Ultra Korea had sniffer dogs at the entrance and stepped up security by confiscating cigarette packs.

Day three was supposed to feature the Swedish House Mafia’s first-ever performance in Korea as a team -- the trio had performed here as individual artists before. All that changed when the team posted on its social media page, just hours before the performance, that it could not take the stage at Ultra Korea because of “unforeseen circumstances.”

Reports that band member Sebastian Ingrosso had missed a performance with Steve Angello in Las Vegas due to passport issues surfaced, coupled with another report that Angello had never left for Korea. This prompted rumors that visa issues had forced cancellation of the band’s act.

Ultra Korea has yet to release an official comment on the issue.

By Yoon Min-sik