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University festivals criticized for K-pop concert ticket scalping

May 29, 2024 - 15:46 By Kim Jae-heun

Popular K-pop girl band NewJeans performs at Korea University's festival held in Seoul, May 26. (Korea University's Instagram account)

Local universities are under fire for ticket scalping by students who sell tickets to K-pop concerts held as part of the school festivals to outsiders.

Every May and June, universities around the country host a two-to-four-day campus festival for students and alumni, organizing events such as sports games, club performances and K-pop concerts.

In recent years, schools have been competing to book bigger names to appear at their festivals to boost their reputation. It resulted in drawing not only students or alumni but also many K-pop fans and concertgoers from outside.

This year, Akaraka, the four-day festival running from May 28 to May 31 and organized by Yonsei University's student cheerleading team, features several K-pop bands including Ateez, Ive, Itzy and Riize.

K-pop stars NewJeans, Illit and Nmixx were among the line-up at the K-pop concerts held as part of Ipselenti, Korea University's festival organized by the student cheerleading squad, which ran from May 21-23.

Ticket sales and alumni donations cover the expense of putting up the concerts. Other college festival concerts are free of charge as they receive financial support from the school as well as donations from graduates.

Even when the tickets are sold, they are about 10 times cheaper than those charged at typical K-pop concerts -- Akaraka and Ipselenti charged 17,000 won ($12.5) and 18,500 won ($13.6), respectively, this year.

Students and K-pop fans flock to the concert venue to watch NewJeans perform at Chosun University in Gwangju, May 27. (Newsis)

A number of students who successfully drew lots to buy concert tickets resold them online for several times the original price, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of won. Students who didn't win the draw complained.

“It’s shameful that some people have made money with (school) festival tickets that were for students and alumni only. Nowadays, there are more K-pop fans at Akaraka than students, who only come to watch the K-pop bands’ performance,” a 35-year-old Yonsei University graduate Park Ji-ho said, Tuesday.

A former Korea University student, Kim Kyung-ho, also expressed concern that his school festival was focusing more on K-pop concerts rather than club events involving students.

“I wish students have fun with their friends and make good memories by engaging in club activities at the festival rather than just watching K-pop performances. It’s sad to see Ipselenti turning into a music concert,” Kim said, Tuesday.

Yonsei University said the school cheerleading team runs the K-pop concerts at its festival and that the school was not involved.

“There is nothing much we can do. The school is unconnected to the management of K-pop concerts at Akaraka,” a member of Yonsei University public relations team said Tuesday.

Yonsei University’s cheerleading team responded to complaints by switching to mobile tickets instead of paper tickets starting this year. The digital tickets cannot be screen-captured and can only be seen on the mobile phone to which the ticket was initially sent.

But many students had already sold their tickets. The concert organizer also provided people who reported illegal ticket trading a chance to purchase K-pop concert tickets.

At Korea University, each ticket was assigned a unique number so that ticket scalpers could be tracked.

Other schools like Kyung Hee University and Hanyang University check student IDs or other forms of identification to prevent outsiders from attending campus K-pop concerts. Konkuk University gave out 30,000 bracelets to students as an entrance ticket and only those who presenting all three – bracelet, student ID and another form of government-issued identification, were able to enter the festival.