(KCON, All Things Hallyu takes place today in New York at the Prudential Center. Featured artists include Girl’s Generation, VIXX, Teen Top & AOA. Below is an article about a three day festival that took place in Los Angeles last weekend)
By Mandy Day
As summer vacation begins to wind down for millions of people, the most anticipated weekend of the year occurs for Korean pop culture fans in the United States. The Los Angeles Convention Center, host to hundreds of events annually, was home of the fourth annual KCON: All Things Hallyu, a first for one of L.A.’s most notable locales. Since its inception in 2012, KCON has grown exponentially each year and is the largest convergence of Hallyu (Korean Wave) fans in North America. From its humble beginning in Irvine, California, KCON had a near sell-out crowd at the Staples Center for both concerts, though Sunday’s concert attendance appeared noticeably thin compared to Saturday.
As the convention outgrew its previous host locations, repeat fans basked in the air-conditioned confines of the convention center, and praised shorter entry lines, unlike in years past. Attracting visitors from across the globe, KCON 2015, hosted tens of thousands of enthusiasts for a weekend of panel discussions, skincare and make-up tutorials, fan engagements, dance and cooking classes, a two day concert series, and an exposition hall filled with Korean products. Each concert is set to air in South Korea, for the television show, M Countdown, and was anchored by K-Pop royalty. Super Junior, a super-sized Korean boy band closed out Saturday’s show, and twenty year veterans, Shinhwa, concluded the weekend with an enthusiastic performance of their biggest hits.
Some convention events proved more popular than others. Hundreds of fans spent hours in line hoping for a spot inside the fan engagement hall, where Korean and Korean American celebrities greeted fans and answered a few pre-selected questions from the event host. Despite gaining entry into the hall, many were left out of the “high touch” portion of the fan engagement. For those unfamiliar with Hallyu culture, a high touch is a high five between a celebrity and their fans. Complaints about lack of access were prevalent among fans, especially considering the time many spent patiently sitting on the floors of the convention center hallways. Many traveled hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of miles to meet their favorite singer or actor, only to learn there was no such engagement scheduled, or worse, it had been canceled. According to attendees, Kim Soo Hyun, Asia’s hottest star, was scheduled to meet fans, but safety concerns led to the event being canceled, leading die-hard fans to settle for the few minutes he spoke during Sunday night’s concert.
The three day event wasn’t just limited to celebrating and showcasing South Korea’s biggest stars. Korean American entertainers also had their place. Daniel Henney, a model and actor in South Korea and the U.S., hosted Saturday’sconcert and met with fans. Henney made his Hollywood debut in X Men Origins: Wolverine and has acted in numerous television series. One of his more notable roles, was as the voice of Tadashi in Big Hero 6. Eric Nam, an American born singer based in South Korea, also attended KCON but was not a part of the concert line up. One of the most sought after Korean-Americans was Eugene Lee Yang, of Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys. This ASAM News writer was fortunate enough to bump into them first thing Saturday morning and have a quick chat and photo before they were off to film their upcoming Korean make-up, and Korean Pop choreography videos. KCON fans flocked to take photos with these humble internet celebrities, and Eugene, who may be one of the most famous internet entertainers of 2015, was spotted throughout the weekend celebrating the emergence of Hallyu culture in the American mainstream.
Nearly a dozen of KCON’s performers and celebrity guests were either born in the United States or lived here for a period of time during their youth. Too many to mention individually, but one stood out. Korean singer Roy Kim, spent several years living in Canada and the United States, and currently attends Georgetown University. He performed at Saturday’s concert, while advocating for a UNESCO program promoting girls’ education. Unfortunately, his acoustic style and lack of flashy choreography led to hundreds of fans taking a mass bathroom break during his set. Despite singing live, where many, if not most, performances are lip-synched, he was one of the less popular performers at either concert. It was disconcerting considering his extraordinary talent.
After last year’s convention attendance surpassed 40,000 fans, KCON organizers planned a bi-coastal event for 2015. Last weekend’s convention and concert series will be followed by a one day event in the New York area on August 8.