Is K-pop Returning to China? Jay Park’s Latest Show Not Without Controversy

Jay Park’s recent performance in Shanghai came with some speed bumps, but fans are optimistic that it could signal a relaxation of China’s ‘K-pop ban’

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12:15 PM HKT, Fri May 12, 2023 1 mins read

Jay Park made his first post-pandemic appearance on the Chinese mainland on May 11, and fans are optimistic that his performance at Shanghai nightclub 1 OAK could indicate that government regulators are ready to ease up on their notorious ‘K-pop ban.’

Known for hits like ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘Mommae,’ Park has amassed a significant fan base in China, racking up 950,000 followers on Weibo. His appearance on the viral reality show Rap of China in 2020 and his first-ever Chinese-language single ‘Thoughts of You’ in 2022 have only served to further boost his popularity in the country.

While fans were excited about what Park’s return could mean for K-pop in China, the event didn’t come without controversy — steep ticket prices and a questionable dress code sparked debate and criticism on social media.

It wasnt just the comparatively hefty ticket price (1,088 RMB, about 155 USD, for the nightclub performance) but the dress code that caused a stir. Official guidelines stressed that women were “required to wear fashionable attire and makeup” and that the club reserved the right to refuse entry to non-compliant guests.

Understandably, Jay Park’s fans weren’t thrilled.

“I would usually wear makeup when going to a concert,” wrote one user on Weibo. “However, it’s up to me whether I do it or not. It’s my own choice. When did it become a requirement?”

After a healthy dose of online backlash, 1 OAK issued an apology, saying that the dress code was only encouraged, not mandatory, as previously stated. Additionally, the club emphasized that the requirements had been set by 1 OAK itself, not Jay Park.

The mandatory makeup clause was removed from the event’s dress code guidelines, while guests were still encouraged to wear fashionable attire. Despite the controversy, fans were still excited about the event, with many making the trek out from other cities.

Park’s appearance is exciting news for fans and anyone monitoring the K-pop scene in China.

For the past seven years, China’s de facto ban on Korean entertainment has stopped artists from performing on stage. However, Park’s appearance in Shanghai could signal a potential relaxation of the ban, which would pave the way for increased cultural exchange and collaboration between the two countries.

This news comes shortly after Chinese contestant Zhang Hao won first place on a Korean reality TV show, spurring similar discussions about the intersection of Chinese-Korean pop culture.

Similarly, Korean musician CL was spotted in Shanghai a few weeks ago for an event from fashion brand Mugler X Machine-A. Meanwhile, a few K-dramas, such as Reply 1988 and Descendants of the Sun, are starting to reappear on the streaming platform iQiyi.

Fans hope that Park’s performance is just the beginning of a triumphant return for Korean cultural products in China. But as K-pop seeks to break back into the country, questions of image will likely continue to jump to the forefront of the conversation.

Cover image via Twitter

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