The king of all Korean cultural events in America is too big to be contained on one coast. On August 8, KCON is set to make its East Coast debut following three wildly successful years in Los Angeles.
Originally started as a day-long convention and concert in California celebrating Korean music and culture, KCON has doubled its audience every year since its inaugural event in 2012. This year, the convention will be held in LA July 31-August 2 and in the New York area on August 8. There will be concerts, cultural workshops, discussion panels, and fan engagement opportunities.
KCON is organized in part by South Korean entertainment group CJ E&M. The group’s chief marketing officer and KCON co-project manager, Angela Killoren, told Fusion that out of the 40% of KCON attendees that come from outside California, a large number are traveling from New York and the East Coast.
“There are a lot of Asian cultural events in [Los Angeles] — traditional and modern — so I was surprised how few there were in New York. There’s a huge variety of people everywhere listening to K-Pop and watching Korean dramas and we want to help all fans meet their idols.”
K-Pop's fanbase is small, yet rapidly growing, and steadfast in loyalty. Killoren adds that the convention functions as a cultural pilgrimage for ardent fans all across the nation. Last year’s KCON in Los Angeles hosted a total of 43,000 attendees — out of which less than 10% were of Korean heritage.
KCON’s website declares its goal to bring ‘all things hallyu’ to the American fanbase. Pop music is only the tip of the iceberg of ‘hallyu,’ which encompasses upbeat music, soap-opera-style TV dramas, eclectic choreography, and spunky fashion trends, catering almost exclusively to younger generations.
Killoren tells Fusion that due to the sheer amount of media outlets K-pop stars are involved in — from producing music to starring in videos, talk shows, and even TV dramas — it is common for fans to develop a greater sense of who their idol is as a person. Therefore, KCON strives for as much fan interaction as possible. Fan engagements are included in every ticket where emcees conduct Q&A sessions with artists in front of fans. An additional tidbit of every ticket includes the opportunity for “hi-touches” - a term for hi-fives between fans and all members of a band.
On the East Coast, the event's coveted concert series begins in the evening and will feature four groups:
Teen Top, a six-member group who have been performing since 2010. Their latest video, A-ha, showcases quirky-colored hair and fancy dance moves.
AOA: seven ladies who debuted in 2012 and have achieved tremendous success for their relatively short time in the spotlight. Their hit video, Like A Cat, has over 17 million views, and assigns feline attributes to the group members, from makeup to sultry cat-like dance moves. They even sneak into guys' bedrooms. Hello, kitty.
Vixx. Is there a rule in Korea where no fewer than six smoldering men can be in a pop boyband? These guys debuted their first international performance at K-Con in 2012. They've got perfectly-synced dance moves and more outfit changes than minutes in their song.
Girls Generation, the eight-member pop powerhouse named Forbes' Korea Power Celebrity 2014. Their song, "I Got A Boy," won YouTube's Video of the Year and has amassed over 135 million views to date. This year will be the group's second K-con appearance. Also, prepare for serious wardrobe-envy.
Women and men from all walks of life are united by a common love and appreciation of South Korea's multifaceted cultural wave. And while the event could teeter on the edge of cultural appropriation to an outsider, KCON ensures fans get complete cultural immersion and awareness.
One of the event’s most popular workshops is a Korean language lesson. In the past, America's Korean classes were dominated by second-generations Koreans put up to this challenge by immigrant parents fearful of their children being assimilated out of their ethnicity. Nowadays, enrollment of non-Koreans in Korean classes has skyrocketed; the motive stems from a genuine desire to connect with K-Pop idols in their native language. These workshops afford knowledge of basic Korean greetings and phrases. Korean executives and stars are appreciative of their fans going the extra mile, thus forming a mutual bond that could only develop from a deep appreciation and cultural respect.
The “New York” event takes place in Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center, and Killoren projects the day-long revelry of Korean pop culture will bring in 10-15,000 visitors. There's more information at kconusa.com.
Get ready to experience hallyu-phoria.
Nikita Redkar is the editorial intern for Fusion who loves writing all things pop culture and feminism - sprinkled with the occasional punchline. She likes cute animal gifs and dislikes long walks on the beach, plagues, and other cliches.