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Sunday, September 25, 2022

NCT Dream rescheduling is well and good, but what about Red Velvet?

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Girl group Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Girl group Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

The rescheduling of boy band NCT Dream’s concert has sparked an outcry for equal treatment of all artists — in this case, girl group Red Velvet under the same agency SM Entertainment.
 
On Wednesday, SM Entertainment announced that NCT Dream would hold a concert in September to make up for last month’s “The Dream Show2 – In A Dream,” which was canceled last minute due to two of the seven members testing positive for Covid-19. SM had initially remained firm that the band’s concert was canceled, not postponed.
 
But to the delight of the fans who were crushed by the cancellation in July, the agency announced that the concert would indeed be held, and at an even bigger venue, no less; moving from the originally planned Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul to Jamsil Olympic Stadium in southern Seoul.

Boy band NCT Dream [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Boy band NCT Dream [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

The reaction to the news by Red Velvet fans was quite the opposite. Red Velvet was also slated to have its concert “2022 The ReVe Festival: Prologue” at the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium in March but had to cancel after three of the five members tested positive for Covid-19. Because the concert, according to the original schedule, was supposed to take place before NCT’s show, the fans of the girl group, dubbed ReVeluv, are pointing fingers and asking why the agency did not prioritize Red Velvet’s rescheduling.
 
Korean and international fans alike launched a Twitter campaign with the Korean hashtag that translates to “public discussion on SM Entertainment’s discrimination against girl groups” and in English, “better treatment for Red Velvet.” “Give us back Red Velvet’s concert” is also a frequently-seen tag.
 
“When Red Velvet’s concert was canceled, I was understanding because I figured it was difficult to reschedule for large venues,” one of the hashtag’s top tweets reads. “Now I know it was just a lack of effort on SM’s part.”

Poster for Red Velvet's canceled concert "Red Velvet - 2022 The ReVe Festival: Prologue" [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Poster for Red Velvet’s canceled concert “Red Velvet – 2022 The ReVe Festival: Prologue” [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Gocheok Sky Dome and Jamsil Olympic Stadium are two of Korea’s largest venues. The former can host somewhere between 17,000 to 35,000 fans depending on the stage layout, while concerts at the latter usually host an average of 45,000 audience members.
 
But as the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium, where Red Velvet planned to hold its concert, only houses around 5,000 people, fans of the girl group are questioning why rescheduling a concert for 5,000 would be more difficult than for a venue the size of Gocheok or Jamsil.
 
This has sparked further criticism by the girl group’s fans, who say that compared to other acts under SM Entertainment, Red Velvet has been given less promotion, social media communication, and album stocks. Fans are emphasizing that the criticism is not toward other artists under SM’s management but toward the agency.
 
Agencies often give favorable treatment to their more successful, profitable artists for business reasons. And in the K-pop scene, it is widely known that male idol groups tend to be more profitable as they have larger, mostly female fandoms who have extremely high loyalty and relatively more purchasing power. Although this trend is visibly changing as more girl groups build stronger fandoms, sales numbers show that, overall, boy bands are more lucrative.

Poster for NCT Dream's concert, which was set for July but canceled [SM ENTERTAINMENT
Poster for NCT Dream’s concert, which was set for July but canceled [SM ENTERTAINMENT

For instance, NCT Dream and Red Velvet are both considered some of the company’s most successful K-pop acts. NCT Dream’s latest album “Glitch Mode” sold 1.4 million copies in March, and its repackaged version “Beatbox” sold 848,000 copies in May. Red Velvet’s most recent EP “The ReVe Festival 2022 – Feel My Rhythm” sold 443,900 copies in March. While the number is still impressive, it shows that even in the same tier of popularity, boy bands tend to see much higher sales.  
 
From a business point of view, it may seem that rescheduling for a much larger, more profitable event would inevitably be the agency’s priority. However, K-pop culture critic Kim Heon-sik says that kind of reasoning is less acceptable among Korea’s young generation today, which values principle and fairness above anything else.
 
“Fans are actively expressing their opinions and trying to step into the management in order to protect their favorite artists,” he said. “NCT Dream’s event may indeed be more popular and profitable. But that can’t be the only factor when making management decisions.”

Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Kim says the outrage is a result of fans’ accumulated distrust in SM Entertainment, which has been facing complaints of favoring certain artists over others for over a decade.

“Red Velvet’s fans are not demanding SM give a concert that never existed,” he continued. “It was something that was set to happen but was unfortunately canceled. Now it turns out that rescheduling is very possible, but simply hasn’t been done for Red Velvet, even though their concert was supposed to happen first. It comes across as a violation of principle to fans, and Generation MZ [millennials and Gen Z] are known to put a strong emphasis on fairness. This is a blunder in management.”

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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