From cars to “ARMY bombs”: chip crunch creeps into the world of K-pop


October 8 (Reuters) – As top K-pop groups prepare to take the stage or live stream new shows after being sidelined by the pandemic, their fans find out that the global flea crisis has also caught up with the world of catchy tunes, glitzy outfits and elaborate dance routines.

Glow sticks, a must-have accessory for South Korean pop enthusiasts, have become more expensive and harder to obtain due to the shortage in production of everything from smartphones to cars.

Fans of glowing wands wave during concerts and virtual events are equipped with so-called microcontrollers for power management and pairing with a phone to change color, and highlight how much compression has gone. spread in various sectors and aspects of daily life.

The price of glow sticks, used by “ARMY” or fans of the BTS mega-group and called “ARMY bombs,” has increased from $ 2 to $ 59 as of October 1, said Weverse Shop, owned by Hybe (352820 .KS). , blaming the “persistent global semiconductor shortage”.

“I sure hope the prices won’t be too high because a lot of ARMY and other fans can’t afford such prices either,” said Pervushina Elizaveta, employee of an entertainment company and fan of BTS from Estepona, Spain.

Fans of K-pop idol group BTS watch a live online concert at a coffee shop in Seoul, South Korea on October 10, 2020. REUTERS / Heo Ran

Fans of South Korean group SEVENTEEN will have to shell out an additional $ 3 for their glow sticks, while supporters of acts like YG Entertainment’s EXO, SHINee, Girls’ Generation and BlackPink stand no chance.

SM Entertainment’s global store (041510.KQ) said the transoms for EXO, SHINee and Girls’ Generation are sold out, while those for BlackPink are out of stock on the group’s official website.

Hybe, SM Entertainment and other leading Korean entertainment companies did not respond to requests for comment.

While Grammy-nominated BTS plans to perform live in Los Angeles in November and December for the first time since the pandemic, other South Korean groups are scheduling shows online. Still, fans are eager to make the most of it, with glow sticks lit and messages shared in chat rooms.

“It’s a fun way to feel connected to other fans around the world, so when you enjoy a gig even from your home you can kind of be a part of something amazing!” said Starla Stafford, a fan from Chattanooga, Tennessee.


To make the pain worse, the semiconductors in glow sticks are being made using older technology and these low-end chips are currently facing the greatest shortage, said Jim Handy, analyst for the research firm. Semiconductor Market Analysis Objective Analysis.

Glow sticks, an essential accessory for fans of South Korean pop, have become more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Noor Zainab Hussain / REUTERS

Wait times for semiconductor shipments are now up to six months, down from about two months typically, manufacturers said.

“I have bulk ordered microcontroller chips in advance, hoping that the live events will return next year as the delivery time is long,” said Ashton Jungmin Choi, co-founder of FANLIGHT, a Seoul-based company that makes glow sticks for bands like BTS, EXO, and SuperM. He said shipping costs had tripled and chips were costing 30% more than a year ago.

“It is very difficult to get a glow stick. They are always in demand and it has been impossible to get the BTS army bombs,” said Mette Kidal, owner of All In Kpop, a K merchandise retailer. -pop based in Denmark who opened a new store in the country this month to meet growing demand.

TWICE fanlights sold out faster than usual, Kidal said, after the girl group teased an upcoming tour in the final scenes of their new all-English single “The Feels.”

Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Tomasz Janowski

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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