Korean broadcasters’ year-end music festivals mired in controversy

In addition to safety-related accidents, stage production errors irked fans and viewers.

Lee Jung-Youn

Lee Jung-Youn

The Korea Herald


From left: Aespa members Giselle, Winter, Ningning and Karina pose for a photo at the "SBS Gayo Daejeon 2023," held at the Inspire Arena in Incheon, Monday. PHOTO: YONHAP/ THE KOREA HERALD

December 29, 2023

SEOUL – Broadcasters’ year-end music festivals have come under fire for poor production value, counterfeit tickets and selecting overseas venues over domestic ones, making it hard for K-pop fans to attend.

The “SBS Gayo Daejeon 2023,” which was held at Inspire Arena in Yongjeong-do, Incheon, on Christmas Day, several accidents threatened the safety of artists in attendance.

A man jumped over the safety line while girl group aespa was about to leave the red-carpet photo wall. A bodyguard jumped on the man to protect the artists. Member Ten of boy group NCT fell from the lift while moving to the front stage to perform “Baggy Jeans.” Ten reassured his fans that he did not sustain any serious injuries through a fan community platform later that day.

In addition to safety-related accidents, stage production errors irked fans and viewers. During the performance of girl group Itzy, a computer error page was shown on an electronic board instead of the intended stage decorations. Only certain parts of the music were repeatedly played during Zerobaseone’s performance and girl group NewJeans’ music was played in the middle of the boy band Stray Kids’ performance.

Moreover, about 90 fans, including fans from abroad, were unable to enter the venue due to counterfeit tickets. Police said Wednesday that they have arrested a suspect who sold the forged tickets and are currently investigating the individual on suspicion of fraud. The exact extent of the damage is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, KBS’s “Music Bank Global Festival 2023” became mired in controversy after Japan was chosen as the show venue.

The program was originally to be held under the title “KBS Song Festival,” but the state broadcaster changed the name to “Music Bank Global Festival 2023” after it was criticized for taking the event abroad. KBS expanded the event by adding domestic performances to satisfy domestic fans. The performances were held in Japan on Dec. 9 and in Korea on Dec. 15, with the entire show being broadcast on Dec. 15.

However, controversy arose again when KBS announced that it would exclusively release previously unreleased clips of the show through Amazon Prime Video Japan from Jan. 26 next year, while the broadcaster’s website said that it would not provide a replay service due to copyright issues. In the wake of the criticism, KBS then said it would provide a replay service.

KBS is also facing a massive decline in viewership ratings. The first part of the year-end music festival received a viewership rating of only 1.5 percent, the broadcaster’s lowest- ever rating. SBS also faces a similar problem, as its “Gayo Daejeon 2023,” despite being held at a swanky new venue, recorded a viewership rating of only 2.2 percent.

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