|K-pop idol group Super Junior perform during its "Super Show 9: Road" world tour at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, Sunday. Korea Times photo by Park Ji-won
By Park Ji-won
HONG KONG ― On Nov. 19 and 20, the AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong's largest venue of 14,000 seats, was filled with fans, where the veteran K-pop star Super Junior played two shows as part of its "Super Show 9: Road" world tour, its first time in the city in more than four years.
The hot and humid weather on Sunday was something unexpected, but it was negligible for fans who had been unable to meet the nine-member boy group, one of the most popular K-pop acts in Hong Kong, for years due to the strict quarantine policy of the city. Thousands of fans wearing blue ― the color of the K-pop act ― from all over the world queued outside of the arena to share cheering items they made with other fans before attending the concert.
Since the tour started in Seoul in July, Hong Kong was the fourth overseas venue following Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.
"I am so excited (to see the concert)," Hongkonger Carol Kwan, a banking industry worker in her 40s, said while holding posters and cheering items in her hands. She went to Seoul and Malaysia this year to attend the band's world tour performances there.
|Fans take selfies before K-pop idol group Super Junior's show begins at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, Sunday. Korea Times photo by Park Ji-won
Starting with "Burn the Floor," the group, its unit D&E, and other combinations of members, sang nearly 30 songs including "Sorry, Sorry," "Mr. Simple" and "Bonamana," during the concert on Sunday.
Spearheading the return of large-sized, in-person gigs in Hong Kong, it showed what concerts could look like in cities that are under stricter quarantine rules than some other Asian countries.
A series of K-pop concerts are scheduled to be held in the city, including those of Kang Daniel, girl groups Blackpink on Jan. 13-15 and Mamamoo on Jan. 7.
Audiences were obliged to follow local quarantine measures, such as scanning the quarantine app Leavehomesafe, before entering the concert hall and wearing a mask the whole time. Shouting and stomping their feet to make sounds, practices unique to fan culture in Hong Kong, were allowed in the hall.
Local residents like Kwan found it easier to follow the rules, but many overseas fans flying in from overseas countries lamented the belated easing of the rules, as they had already spent a lot of money on accommodations and taken time off to follow the previous rules which forced them to stay in Hong Kong for three days prior in order to enter the concert hall.
|Seen are QR codes to be scanned before entering a concert hall at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, where K-pop idol group Super Junior is set to perform as part of its "Super Show 9: Road" world tour, Sunday. Korea Times photo by Park Ji-won
The Hong Kong government announced recently that it will ease the rules for international venues so that amber health code holders, given to arrivals for the first three days, can also enter concert halls and museums and eat food in designated areas. So far, only those who have blue codes, after at least three days of medical surveillance or self-monitoring in Hong Kong (depending on whether they are of foreign or Chinese nationality) without getting infected, had been allowed to enter such venues.
Even though Hong Kong lifted its hotel quarantine requirement on Sept. 26, as the tickets for Super Junior's concert sold out in October, fans who decided to come to Hong Kong for three days before the concert in October were able to enjoy the concert.
|Fans queue up for cheering items made by other fans at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, where K-pop idol group Super Junior was playing as part of its "Super Show 9: Road" world tour, Sunday. Korea Times photo by Park Ji-won
"It was very difficult (to travel)," said Jia Yuchen, a 20-year-old mainland Chinese student, Sunday, who flew in from Russia where she studies to see her favorite band. She added that as a student, it was not easy to spend a lot of money on the trip for accommodation and tickets as well as following the city's PCR testing requirements.
Stressing that it was a "huge decision" as it was her first Super Junior concert, she said she would not have decided to come to Hong Kong if she had been coming from mainland China, which has stricter rules than Hong Kong.
Korean office worker Oh Jee-min, 33, who came to Hong Kong for the concert, emphasized that more overseas fans would visit Hong Kong if the government eases more rules.
However, local people showed mixed reactions over the easing of quarantine measures.
Kwan added that the easing of rules would be better for overseas fans, but she was worried about the ticket price surge if mainland China, where there is a huge Super Junior fan base, also enters following the easing of regulations for inbound travelers within China.
Hongkonger Annie Chan Ka Lee, a 30-year-old office worker, thinks the Hong Kong government is losing a chance to promote the city to the world with the strict regulations.
"If the rules are less strict, artists will also go to more tourism spots," Lee said, adding that foreign stars coming to Hong Kong spend two days without doing anything during the three-day medical surveillance period. "It is such waste of a chance for the promotion of Hong Kong."