Making Seoul the next global music hub


Seoul Metropolitan Government will pour in 481 billion won ($405 million) for the next five years to make the city a global music hub ― starting with the launch of a new K-pop festival next week ― local officials announced Monday.

Thanks to the continuing K-pop wave, Korea already boasts the sixth-largest music industry in the world by revenue, according to the 2019 IFPI Global Music Report. In terms of album sales, K-pop idol group BTS topped global charts last year with “Love Yourself: Answer” and “Love Yourself: Tear.”

The city wants to capitalize on this momentum, presenting itself as a global meet-up point for K-pop fans and festivalgoers in general. The pilot project for this will be the Seoul Music Festival (SMUF), to be held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6 at Gwanghwamun Square.

Making Seoul the next global music hub

“It will be the first K-pop festival to take place at Gwanghwamun Square, the symbolic center of Seoul, and that in itself is significant,” Yoo Yeon-sik, head of the city’s culture department, said in a press statement.


The motto of SMUF is “Beyond K-pop, everything about Korea’s popular culture.” It will feature several K-pop idol groups ― mostly rookies ― as well as two-hour slots for indie and hip-hop music. The main stage will also host the final round of a K-pop cover dance competition among teams from 10 countries.

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To attract as many people as possible, the event will be free to all. But visitors have to reserve their seats through the festival website for a 1,000-won fee, except for the SMUF X ZANDARI indie music slot.

SMUF is just the start. The city is creating three more new music festivals: Seoul Traditional Music Fest, which is having its first run around the city this month, the Hangang Summer Music Fest, and the Seoul Classic Music Fest. The latter two are scheduled to start next year.


The city will also expand the existing Seoul Drum Festival in spring and an indie music festival in fall. The goal is to secure a globally recognized music event in the capital for each of the four seasons.

Whether the events will hold sufficient appeal to the masses in their current design, however, is another question.

Making Seoul the next global music hub

Music festivals are multiplying in the country each year. Trends continually change. Jisan Valley Rock Festival, one of the biggest rock festivals in the country, was halted after 2017, with a planned revival this year canceled only three days before it was set to start. Many new festivals die out after their first year. Festivalgoers today care as much about the atmosphere of the location as the music itself ― the reason why many music festivals now take place on scenic picnic grounds surrounded by rolling hills. Rookie K-pop acts next to busy roads or Beethoven recitals inside closed auditoriums, in comparison, may have a hard time impressing visitors.

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The city will also expand infrastructure for music events in the city, starting with the new cultural complex at Nodeul Island. A brand new 18,400-seat Seoul Arena for K-pop concerts is also being built in northeastern Seoul, due for completion by December 2023.

The city will also set up a special support center for indie musicians in Hongdae by 2022 and publish a list of “50 must-visit spots,” including LP bars, clubs and pubs, which will help tourists and locals better navigate the city’s music scene.

In a press briefing, Yoo said Seoul was benchmarking cities like Liverpool and Aspen that attract hordes of culture-hungry tourists each year. More strategizing is expected next June, when Seoul hosts the Music Cities Convention.

Source: The Korea Times, Seoul Metropolitan Government

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