Popular K-pop stars held successful concerts in East Asian nations over the weekend, in a positive sign that the region can fill the hole left in the wake of a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over a US anti-missile system.
On Saturday, Kim Jae-joong, a member of JYJ, performed in Bangkok, Thailand. It was his first visit to the country since March 2014.
Around 5,000 fans, not only from the country but also from neighboring nations including Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, flew in to see the Korean pop idol perform.
He received a warm response from Thai fans by wearing a black ribbon in tribute to the late Thai King Bhumibol when he arrived at the airport. During the concert, he performed "Butterfly" for the first time during his Asia tour, as way of expressing his gratitude for Thai fans' unwavering support. Fans responded by holding placards that said "Welcome Back KJJ" and "We will always be by your side."
Since he was discharged from the military in December, he's been on an Asia tour. His recent performance in Hong Kong drew thousands of fans, triggering negative online comments from Chinese nationalists who believe enjoying Korean culture is an act of betrayal.
His next tour will take place in Macao this coming Saturday and Taiwan on April 1.
On the same day, boy group EXO performed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of "EXO PLANET #3 The EXO'rDIUM," the group's third solo global tour since its debut in 2011. The group's next stop is Singapore on April 2.
The importance of the region as an export market for Korean cultural products is growing as the Chinese market becomes more difficult to enter due to the frosty relations between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system on the Korean Peninsula.
There has been a rising consensus within the industry that it needs to take this opportunity to lessen its dependence on the Chinese market and expand into other Asian markets.
"For the past 15 years, K-pop has relied too much on Japan and then China. Experiencing this crisis, K-pop singers are adjusting their schedule to meet fans in other Asian countries," said an executive of a big Korean music label on condition of anonymity.
Another official from a management agency said, "We hope the relations with China gets better, but we don't rule out that it (frosty relations) will continue for the time being. We plan to hold this year's concerts in Asian nations that we haven't been to."