South Korea is hosting New Years concerts again. But without singing, please.

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Spectators have their tickets and vaccination status checked before entering the concert hall in Goyang, South Korea on New Years Eve. (Min Joo Kim / The Washington Post)

GOYANG, South Korea – No songs to sing, no flashy with the band, and please try to keep the cheers to yourself. A strange new reality greeted audiences live at a New Years concert in Seoul after a long hiatus from the pandemic.

“Did you all miss us?” The glitzy lead dancer of K-pop supergroup Seventeen told a muted crowd in the Seoul suburb of Goyang. The familiar explosion of cheers was conspicuously absent. A “no cry” warning went out throughout the half-full room.

Live music resumed cautiously in November as part of South Korea’s “living with covid-19” reopening plans, but concerts were quickly scrapped in December amid a spike in hospitalizations and concerns about the omicron variant. For New Years Eve, some shows were held, but under strictly enforced rules about social distancing, masks, and the disorienting calm of the audience – who normally sings the tunes with the bands. In Goyang, the crowd size was reduced from about 5,000 to 2,700.

It was a sobering message that the pandemic still holds in 2022. Last summer in Japan, a similar silence without cheers was considered for the Olympics before organizers decided to host the Tokyo Games with largely empty sites.

“Clap for us at least?. This is our first in-person gig in so long,” said Hoshi, a member of boy group Seventeen. “If you missed us, clap, clap, clap, clap until you set your hands on fire.”

And fans also waved bluetooth-synced glow sticks to flash to the beat of the music. A statement from the concert’s organizers – management agency HYBE, the Seoul-based K-pop powerhouse that handles popular acts, including BTS – said it hoped to prevent “physical distance from causing psychological distance between fans and artists “.

“It’s disappointing, but I think I’m more excited just to be able to see them,” said Mikaela Hayes, a 25-year-old international teacher who traveled from southern Jeju Island to South Korea to attend. at his first concert since the start of the pandemic.

The concert brought together some of the main HYBE bands such as Seventeen, Tomorrow X Together, Enhypen and fromis_9. But mega-group BTS did not make an appearance after announcing an “extended rest period” starting in December.

Three BTS members were diagnosed with covid-19 last week after returning to South Korea from the United States, where the group had their first concerts in two years.

Goyang’s concert was broadcast live to more than 100 countries. The K-pop stars at the New Years Eve concert shared their 2022 wishes to end the night.

“The biggest wish for the new year is to have a lot more opportunities like tonight to be with our MOAs,” said Soobin, frontman of boy band Tomorrow X Together, referring to the name given to their base. fans. Earlier in the pandemic, the quintet told a teenager how restrictions on coronaviruses have wreaked havoc on their generation in a song called “We Lost The Summer.”

“From a cultural point of view, resuming live music is desirable but we are still concerned about the risk of infection,” said Choi Jong-hyun, a government official from Goyang City who inspected the city. held before the concert. “We’re trying to find the right balance here.”


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