By Park Boram
SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- Boy band BTS' four rounds of sensational fan meetings and concerts in the band's home country of South Korea dazzled hundreds of thousands of avid fans over the past two weeks. But the events were shadowed by nagging complaints by ticket holders who were denied entry to the concerts due to tight ID checks.
BTS entertained some 258,000 fans from in and out of the country with their Busan and Seoul legs of the "BTS 5th Muster [Magic Shop]" fan meeting and concert event under which the band threw two concerts in Busan on June 15-16 and two more in Seoul over the weekend. The final round of the event Sunday was broadcast live on Naver's V Live, the biggest local internet portal.
The rare home events thrilled the two biggest South Korean cities, which responded by lighting up city landmarks in the signature BTS color of purple.
What continued to nag the highly celebrated event all throughout its four rounds were, however, wild complaints by fans who were not admitted to the concert venues even though they had tickets in their hands.
A group of about 100 people, mostly young students or parents of young fans, made a scene in front of Busan Asiad Auxiliary Stadium on June 15, where the septet was to throw the first round of "BTS 5th Muster [Magic Shop]" that evening, demanding that their denial of entry be reversed.
Even holding tickets to the concert, they were denied entrance on account that the identity of a ticket user does not match that of the ticket buyer, a rule tightly applied by the BTS concert organizer to preclude any tickets bought in the black market.
The complaining group included one parent of a BTS teenage fan, who bought the ticket for the child. Another middle school student wasn't allowed into the stadium because her student ID was presented as a photocopy. They also included some foreign fans who couldn't come up with the proper paperwork.
As complaints increased on the first day of the Busan concert, some of the rejected ticket holders were let into the stadium, but the issue recurred on the second day.
One parent from the South Korean heritage city of Jeonju drove more than three hours to Busan to present a passport for her daughter as the teenager was denied entrance for lacking an ID card.
"I drove for 3 1/2 hours to Busan with this passport because my daughter, a middle school sophomore, couldn't go in with her ticket and a copy of her passport," the parent said on the second day of the concert's Busan leg.
"She was able to watch the BTS concert in Britain with the ticket and only a copy of her passport. I don't understand why the process here in South Korea is so much stricter," according to the parent.
The strict admission check continued on the Seoul leg of the concerts over the weekend, with several ticket holders turned down for entrance, having failed to verify their identities and ticket purchases.
Among them were a Japanese woman who erupted in tears after being told to turn back.
"I had my name changed after marriage, but I was told that I cannot pick up my ticket because I don't have the document to prove (the name change). I am dumbfounded," she said ahead of the Saturday concert in Olympic Park in southeastern Seoul.
Even as the ID verification issue gathered more complaints and grabbed the media spotlight, there was little reaction by BTS' management agency, Big Hit Entertainment, instigating some angry fans to call on Big Hit with a unified SNS hashtag, that is translated as "Explain the 5th fan meeting."
Big Hit responded only by reaffirming its stance online that "Anyone who holds tickets that are transferred (from other people) or tickets (whose buyers' names) cannot be matched with those of the holders will not be admitted under any circumstance," without budging from its tough verification process.
Such a meticulous verification process is what other concert hosts have also followed in the face of the increasingly rampant black market for tickets.
The availability of new macro programs, which allow their users to scoop up the best concert seats on online ticketing, made already competitive online ticket purchases even fiercer, sending many eager consumers of performing arts to the black market where tickets go on sale at a huge premium.
Tickets for the latest local BTS events, originally priced at 99,000 won (US$85.50), were once put up for sale online with a price tag of over 1 million won.
Amid the rampancy of black market-circulated tickets, Salt Innovation, a performance management company, unilaterally canceled a bunch of ticket purchases by suspected ticket scalpers last year when the company hosted the first joint performance by H.O.T. members since the iconic '90s boy group disbanded in 2001.
Other concert agencies have also been combating black market tickets by introducing tighter ID verification checks.
Even given the backdrop, the verification standards at the latest BTS concerts were said to have been too daunting for fans, especially with fewer resourceful teenage fans.
"Not all concert organizers apply the (verification process) all too strictly, so the thorough process by Big Hit might have been rather tough," an official at a talent agency said on condition of anonymity. "I think it may have aroused concertgoers' attention to black market tickets."