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[Exclusive] CJ ENM's 'KCON Saudi Arabia' canceled this year: source

July 11, 2024 - 15:11 By Kim Jae-heun
Fans take in a K-pop performance at KCON Saudi Arabia 2023 in Boulevard Riyadh City, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 6, 2023. (CJ ENM)

KCON, the globally renowned K-pop music festival organized by CJ ENM, will not be held in Saudi Arabia this year, according to an industry insider.

Earlier this year, CJ ENM announced its 2024 KCON schedule that included events in five locations: Hong Kong, Japan, Los Angeles, Europe and Saudi Arabia. While specific dates were released for the first three locations, the dates for Europe and Saudi Arabia were left unspecified.

In June, CJ ENM announced that the European KCON would take place in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 28 and 29. However, the date for the event in Saudi Arabia has yet to be disclosed.

The schedule for this year's KCON festivals is announced by CJ ENM in January. (CJ ENM website)

"As far as I know, KCON Saudi Arabia has been canceled due to internal conflicts," a source with knowledge of K-pop concerts in the Middle East told The Korea Herald on July 9. The source did not provide further details on the nature of the conflicts.

CJ ENM maintains that Saudi Arabia KCON is still in the works, but could not confirm it would take place this year.

"We are still in discussions with our counterparts in Saudi Arabia and cannot confirm whether it will be held this year," a CJ ENM official said Tuesday.

The Saudi Tourism Authority directed inquiries to its social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly Twitter, for updates on upcoming events. However, there is no update on this year’s KCON festival on these platforms.

Another K-pop event promoter in the Middle East attributed the potential cancellation to the lackluster lineup for the 2023 KCON concert in Saudi Arabia, which largely disappointed local fans.

"The K-pop artists last year lacked significant name recognition. K-pop agencies don't seem very interested in the Middle Eastern market, so they don't send their top bands. Consequently, ticket sales were low," said the promoter who wished to remain anonymous. "The Saudi Tourism Authority is aware of these issues and is reconsidering the event."

Lineup for KCON Saudi Arabia 2023 (CJ ENM)

Unlike the star-studded 2022 lineup that featured big names such as Ateez, NewJeans, Sunmi and Rain, the 2023 KCON Saudi Arabia's roster included lesser-known or past-their-prime acts like Everglow, Highlight and Super Junior.

"For a K-pop concert to sell tickets in the Middle East, you need to bring in established bands like BTS, Stray Kids, Seventeen, Ateez or Enhypen. However, the biggest name on the 2023 KCON Saudi Arabia lineup was Super Junior, who were more popular four years ago," the promoter added.

Given that KCON in Saudi Arabia was held in September and October in 2022 and 2023, respectively, a similar time frame was expected this year. The promoter noted that if the event were to be held in either of those months mentioned above, the lineup should have been announced by now.