It has been 10 years since I attended my first concert in Korea – where I watched Shinhwa’s 15th-anniversary concert + Infinite’s concert. [Link to the ancient blog post if you’re keen]
Thought that it would be nice to recap and compare to see how things have changed across those years and perhaps you can pick up a tip or so 😉
Back in 2013, most larger-scale concerts were held at the Olympic Gymnasium Arena which had a capacity of about 13,500. Since 2018, the venue was renovated to be more relevant for concerts and renamed to ‘KSPO Dome’ with an upgraded capacity of 15,000. [Read more about the renovation & architecture] Today, it is the largest indoor concert venue capable of producing top-class stages. Come 2025, there would be a Seoul Arena that can house up to 28,000 people (including standing).
List of concert venues as of 2023 (seat capacity) based on Google/Wikipedia
- Yes24 Live Hall – (1,090)
- Olympic Hall – (2,452)
- Jangchung Arena – (4,507)
- SK Olympic Handball Stadium – (6,500)
- Jamsil Arena/Indoor Stadium – (11,069)
- KSPO Dome – (15,000)
Apart from those above, another popular venue would be the university halls but these venues usually have a capacity of less than 1,000.
(Information below is relating to SM artistes. I am not sure of how other companies manage their ticketing and please do not pose a question to me because I do not have an answer for you.)
For SM, there are usually 3 ‘schemes’ you can obtain a ticket:
- SM Global Package – Heavily marked-up prices which include accommodation, transport from the hotel to the venue, and better seats (that are usually closer to the stage but please note that there’s no guarantee and you can’t choose the seats too.) As part of the package, they will also include special souvenirs, snacks and maybe special access to merchandise orders too. I can’t recall the mark-up but I think it is usually about 50 to 80% more (if you deduct for just the ticket and accommodation). You can read about my experience here back in 2018.
- ‘Ace’ member pre-sales – ‘Ace’ is considered as a fan club membership for SM groups. It costs about $35 USD per year and it gives you access to members-only photos and content plus it is a pre-requisite to pre-recordings (if you’re that lucky) and other random events that hardly ever happen. Also, you will have access to purchase concert/fanmeet tickets at an earlier date. There can be a possibility that all tickets are sold out during ‘Ace’ pre-sales stage and there won’t be anything left for public sales.
- ‘Public’ Sales – It takes place after ‘Ace’ pre-sales, usually on a separate day. The sale will only happen if there are leftover/canceled tickets. For very popular groups, there’s almost no chance to get a ticket during public sales at all.
Annoying things about ticketing that you might want to know
There are two main ticketing companies in Korea – Yes24 and Interpark. SM has been using Yes24 in recent years and the good thing is that there’s a global english site which makes it easier for foreigners to navigate. Then again, if you don’t have a Korean ID and/or Korean mobile number, it is impossible to set up an account on the Korean site. The advantage of buying a ticket as a foreigner is that you get to collect a physical ticket stub whereas the Koreans enter via a QR code on the mobile app. No idea why there’s such a differentiation but I guess that’s the only way for them to verify your identity (i.e. Passport) during ticket collection.
There are ID checks and ‘ACE’ member checks during ticket collection (for foreigners). You will need to arrive at the venue earlier to collect your tickets and it is advisable to arrive early in case there’s a queue. During the collection, they will ask for your passport and ACE verification (not a screenshot, but an actual login to the Gwangya Account with the moving text as live verification). Your name is printed on your physical ticket so there can still be a chance they do an extra verification at venue entry. It didn’t happen to me in 2023 but I do hear of people getting ‘caught’ in 2018 for buying resale black market tickets (e.g. looking like a foreigner but having a ticket with a Korean name). I’m not 100% sure what was the outcome but I would highly discourage purchasing from ticket scalpers.
The easiest way (or perhaps the only way) to ‘guarantee’ going with a friend and having 2 seats side by side is to purchase the Global Package. Max you can guarantee is just 2 adjacent seats if you purchase the ‘twin’ room. During ‘Ace’ member sales, one account can only purchase one ticket and during public sales, you can buy an additional ticket (or up to 2 max) per account. For popular groups, it is almost impossible to have time to click for 2 seats, unless you are not fussy about selecting a good seat (e.g. Level 2/3 and being further away from the stage). However, most popular concerts sell out in seconds so.. you really don’t have a chance to pick and choose
Most people stand by and refresh their computer screens non-stop to wait for the ‘purchase’ button to turn clickable. Within seconds, you will have to select the date (most concerts have 2-3 nights so that’s the first decision you make), select a specific area and then right down to a specific seat and press the ‘proceed button’.
Here are some screenshots which you may find useful.
After clicking the purchase/booking button from the event page, there will be a new window open up. Most concerts will have 2 or more days, thus you will have to select the date that you want to purchase first. You can’t process 2 tickets on different dates in the same booking.
If there are two timings on the same day, you will have to select the timing as well (see blue circle below), before clicking on the [Select Seats] button.
Depending on the venue, the image below will change accordingly. On this screen, you will have to select the section you would like to find your seats. When you hover around, you may see the ‘Available Seats’ balance but chances are you don’t have time to consider and react. Just click and proceed. The moment you hesitate, you lose.
After clicking on the section, you will get to see which seats are still available (purple boxes). You will have to select one of the boxes and click ‘Seat Selection completed’. The annoying this about this step is there if someone else is selecting the same seat as you, you might see an error pop-up with the message “Another customer is in the process of purchasing these seats.” which means that you will have to select another seat and try again. Even if you get to the next step, it doesn’t mean your seat is guaranteed as you may time-out or lose to another fan that completes the payment before you. It’s frustrating but that’s part and parcel of ticketing.
After this step, you will have to select your payment method. In all honesty, PayPal is the fastest option but they give the lousiest exchange rate as you’ll be paying in USD. Many times, I panic and select PayPal instead so I end up paying more in my local currency but I guess the most important thing is securing the ticket. However, to save money, the credit card option would usually have a more favourable exchange rate as you get to pay directly in Korean Won.
Also, some concerts require ‘capcha’ inputs, some don’t. Before you click the ‘Payment’ button, please ensure that the two checkboxes are ticked. Otherwise you won’t be able to proceed.
Assuming you clicked on the Credit Card option, you will see this same-window pop-up. You’ll have to tick the checkbox and assuming you do not have a Korean credit card, please click the ‘Other Card’ selection and scroll to select Visa/Master, before clicking on the ‘Next’ button.
After this step, an OTP may or may not be triggered and once you have seen the confirmation, CONGRATULATIONS, you have gotten your ticket!
The cancellation policy in Korea is one of the most flexible ones that I’ve seen. It can be a win-win situation for the ticketing company as they may get to earn more (for booking fees) but it may also end up creating a misleading ‘sold out’ situation. Fret not, if you do not have a ticket, you can keep ‘camping’ and refreshing the website to attempt purchasing cancelled tickets.
If you cancel the ticket before 23:59 Korean time (on the same day you made a purchase), you’ll be allowed to get a full refund, including the ‘booking fee’ which ranges from 2 to 5k korean won. After which, you will only ‘lose’ the booking fee if you cancel within 7 days of the purchase date.
After 7 days from purchase date till under 10 days before concert date, your penalty would be min. 4,000W + booking fee
7 to 9 days before concert: 10% of ticket price + booking fee
3 to 6 days before concert: 20% of ticket price + booking fee
1 to 2 days before concert: 30% of ticket price + booking fee
If you’re cancelling <24 hours before the concert, I believe there will be no longer be any refund.
Buying tickets at venue
I am not sure if this is possible as I didn’t see it during my 2023 experience but in 2018, I do know of people who manage to secure tickets by purchasing at venue (provided there are last minute cancellations or additions). If you have absolutely no other option, you could try it out.
Hope you find this guide useful! If I have the time in future, I might write a post about the differences between Korea, Japan and Singapore (my country) as every country has different pros and cons. Do leave a comment below if you have questions or find this useful!