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Concert organizers work to combat scalpers :As fans struggle to get tickets, demand for solutions is growing

July 04,2017
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Fans often fall victim to scalpers who sell tickets at premiums that are much higher than their original price. From left: Coldplay, Ariana Grande, Produce 101, Cho Seong-jin and Ed Sheeran. [YONHAP, HYUNDAI CARD]
Just before lunch on June 15, Kwak Hye-rim, 28, who works as a secretary at a small company in Gangnam, southern Seoul, walked out of her office and headed towards an internet cafe next door. She warmed up her fingers and made sure the keyboard and mouse worked properly.

As soon as the clock struck noon, she feverishly clicked away, careful not to make even the smallest mistake, so that she could secure a ticket to Ed Sheeran’s concert on Oct. 29 at the Olympic Park. It is the British pop star’s first visit to Korea in nearly three years and Kwak had to hear him perform live.

But fate wasn’t on her side.

“I should’ve listened to the experts and selected the cash deposit method and not the credit card,” said Kwak. “Everything went wrong after that. The page froze and I had to start over and obviously there were no more seats left. I really planned it out like a mission… Too bad I couldn’t accomplish it. I will have to pay extra and look for the ‘premi’ tickets online.”

Kwak is not the only one who failed this “mission,” and falling victim to the so-called “premi” tickets, which refers to “premium tickets” that get sold online at a higher price.

Ticket scalping is not a new phenomenon. It has existed for decades, and trying to root out scalpers lingering in front of baseball stadiums and concert halls causes headaches worldwide. But thanks to the rise of social media and ticket resale services, the scalpers have become uncontrollable.

With the recent rise in the number of world-famous stars holding concerts in Korea, the online sale of scalped tickets, or what Koreans call “premi tickets,” has become rampant, creating a battle between the scalpers, customers and regulators.

Before Coldplay came to Seoul for a concert this April, tickets went on sale at two ticketing sites, Interpark and Yes24. According to the two ticketing websites, about 900 thousand people were connected to the sites simultaneously, causing a major slowdown. Coldplay tickets sold out in minutes and soon after, fans began looking for scalped tickets while scalpers took advantage of their desperation. The most expensive seats were sold for 154,000 won ($134) on ticketing sites, but scalped tickets were priced well over 1 million won.

For the Sting concert in May held at Hyundai Card’s Understage, which only seats 400 people, scalped tickets were sold for around 900,000 won.

A Twitter search for “premi” on June 30 turned up endless posts looking for tickets and offering tickets to upcoming concerts including Ed Sheeran on Oct. 29 and Ariana Grande on Aug. 15. There were many young women desperately looking for last-minute tickets to the debut concert of Wanna One, the winning group from Mnet’s all-male idol audition show “Produce 101,” which took place at Olympic Park on Saturday and Sunday. The highest price offered by scalpers for the 70,000 won ticket was 1.2 million won.

Scalpers have even penetrated the realm of classical music concerts, thanks to the star power of pianist Cho Seong-jin. Lotte Concert Hall opened tickets to its one-year anniversary concert on June 20 for its members and on June 21 for the public. The 1,400 tickets for the Lotte Concert Hall members sold out in five minutes and 600 tickets for the public in one minute. But a few hours later, postings offering a 150,000 won ticket for over 1 million won began to appear on social media.

Concert organizers and online ticketing companies have been working to regulate scalpers. However, with limited options, industry insiders have voiced the need for a proper solution.

“It is not a good idea to blindly ban individual ticket trades,” said an industry insider who requested not to be named. “What we need is an official ‘secondary market’ that can oversee the transactions.”

Online ticket market StubHub, an affiliate of eBay, recently conducted a survey of 2,000 Koreans aged 20 to 40. The study revealed that 61 percent of the respondents have purchased secondary tickets for live entertainment or sporting events.

To create a safe platform where people can resell and purchase secondary tickets, StubHub recently launched a system called Fan Protect Guarantee. According to the company, the platform connects buyers and sellers while it plays the middleman in the dealing procedure between the two to make sure no scams and unfair transactions are made.

“Demand for buying and selling tickets online has clearly increased among Korean consumers. With sales of tickets to major live events now being offered many months and sometimes up to a year in advance, consumers want the right to sell their tickets when they are no longer able to attend,” said Kevin Cho, country manager at StubHub Korea.

“Secondary ticketing allows fans to buy tickets to experience memorable live events that they would otherwise miss in a safe and secure way. This is why we introduced this system which offers buyers and sellers complete assurance that they will be protected when using our platform.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE
[sharon@joongang.co.kr]