Thousands of fans gathered in Newark on a cloudy Saturday for the East Coast’s first KCON—a celebration of “all things hallyu,” a catchall term for Korean pop culture.
In LA, the convention was three days long; this year, it drew 58,000 fans — up from 43,000 last year. Over the weekend in Newark, 17,000 fans came out for the inaugural event. A smaller number, but spirits were high and screams were piercing. Some had camped out since 2 in the morning to snag a spot close to the stage.
The attendees came from all over the country and ranged widely in age and background, but they were unified by their good-natured and inclusive fandom — as Mei, age 13, said, “It’s so cool knowing everyone here likes the same thing as you do.” They came for panel discussions, for sing-alongs, for a talent show, and for workshops on “Crazy Korean Cooking,” but most of all they came to see their favorite bands in person, and, in fan engagement sessions, to “hi touch” (like high-fiving, but gentler) the hands of their idols. “It was so soft,” said one 14-year-old about the hand of Leo, a member of the wildly popular boy band VIXX. “So soft.”