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K-pop agency SM Entertainment to help Saudi Arabia develop its own idol training program

    A partnership between K-pop agency SM Entertainment and the Saudi Arabian government is reportedly in the works.

    SM founder Lee Soo-man met with Saudi Arabia’s Princess Haifa bint Faisal Al-Saud and other government officials in Riyadh on March 23 to discuss exporting South Korea’s K-pop training system to the Middle East. The goal is to create a line of Saudi idols.  

    Haifa, who is also the assistant minister of tourism, described the entertainment industry as an important part of Saudi Arabia’s future growth

    In addition to helping develop a Saudi idol training system, Lee also pledged to “hold an SMTown concert” with “all of [SM’s] artists” in the kingdom before the end of 2022. An electronic dance music (EDM) show is also reported to take place within the year.

    SM is behind some of the biggest names in K-pop, including Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation, EXO, BoA and Super Junior, which reportedly sold out tickets in Saudi Arabia in a few hours in 2019. 

    Saudi Arabia is currently the world’s largest exporter of petroleum. The country primarily has an oil-based economy, and it has made recent strides to diversify its sectors, including expanding tourism and transportation.  

    A billion-dollar entertainment megaproject called “Qiddiya,” which will include the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, and a golf course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, is currently in development. It is expected to become a global tourist site, projected to attract as many as 17 million visitors a year by 2030. SM’s Lee has been an advisor on the project since 2019.

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