“It was undoubtedly value it. Well worth the 2,200 bucks,” laughs Larry Zheng. The 20-year-old attendee is referring to the Status tickets he purchased for the most important Korean tradition and music pageant in North America — KCON — which passed off on August 19-21 on the Los Angeles Conference Middle and Crypto.com Area. A self-proclaimed “JYP Nation fan,” Zheng largely got here to see lady group ITZY, however his top-tier buy granted him full entry to the three days of conference. Alongside most well-liked GA spots for the 2 nights of concert events, Zheng additionally scored meet and greets with all the performing artists, pink carpet attendance, unique merchandise, and plenty of different advantages. “It was the most effective expertise of my life,” he says.
Ok-pop usually speaks a language of exuberance. The style is understood for its vibrant visuals, dozens of tempo modifications, intricate choreographies — and KCON drinks straight from that bottle. Over the course of the 2022 occasion’s three days, the conference ground held a sundry of meals, magnificence, and merchandise stalls, in addition to dozens of panels, workshops, video games, and actions like Selfie MV recordings, the place followers might take part and work together with their favourite idols. Attendees, ranging in age and background, sported fundamental denims and tees to full-on music video-inspired outfits. With over 90,000 folks in attendance and a complete viewership of seven.17 million by way of its on-line streaming, KCON 2022 L.A. wrapped up a weekend crammed to the brim with Ok-pop’s magic.
This was Zheng’s first KCON, however 2022 marks the tenth anniversary of the long-standing occasion. Based in 2012 in Los Angeles by South Korean leisure firm CJ ENM, KCON has since expanded to international locations like Japan, Mexico, and Australia, because of the Hallyu (Korean wave) increase in international recognition over the past decade. Starting as a 1-day occasion for U.S. Ok-pop followers to see their favourite bands reside, KCON has morphed right into a weekend-long extravaganza.
Former U-KISS member and actor Kevin Woo, 30, who has participated within the occasion since 2017, first as a performer and now as a particular visitor and host, says that KCON was initially targeted on the tradition round Ok-pop and its idols, however has now expanded to cowl different points of South Korean life.
“There’s panels with Ok-pop producers, or individuals who educated in Ok-pop, or foreigners and [members of] the LGBTQ+ neighborhood who’re desirous about being in Korea, how that’s like,” he says. “There’s simply so many alternative subjects that individuals can study and actually immerse themselves in.”
“After we got here to America and did our first tour [in 2014], it was largely [people in their] 20s, 30s, 40s,” provides Woo in regards to the different notable change he’s observed in regards to the occasion. “However now you possibly can see excessive schoolers, center schoolers, even toddlers with their mother and father. The age demographic [has] undoubtedly modified.”
Within the case of Karen, 51, and her daughter Zoe, 7, the 2 drove from Orange County, California, to witness the pageant. Whereas the live performance is just too late for Zoe, they’ll nonetheless attempt to catch a glimpse of STAYC — her favourite group — on the conference ground. “I feel it’s a superb occasion to get to fulfill one other a part of the world,” says Karen, who attended the previous 4 editions of KCON. “Music is a common language, proper? It brings all of the generations and all of the ethnicities collectively.”
Though many followers come only for the conference, the occasion would not be full with out the crowning jewels: reside performances by a number of the largest and most promising artists within the present Ok-pop panorama.
On Friday, the KCON Rookies stage welcomed rising acts Lightsum, Cravity, STAYC, and TO1 earlier than they embark on a six-city tour throughout the U.S, whereas Saturday and Sunday evenings have been capped by performances from established names like Ateez, Stray Children, WJSN, NCT Dream, Enhypen, and LOONA.
After two years of primarily on-line actions because of the pandemic, some teams have been nonetheless stunned after they realized how appreciated they’re abroad. Boy band TO1 — who carried out at KCON for the primary time in 2019 as trainees for Mnet’s survival present To Be World Klass — remarked that they made followers throughout that first go to to L.A., and have been in a position to acknowledge those self same faces within the crowd after they carried out on the KCON Rookies stage on Friday.
“Ok-pop actually does deliver collectively many individuals and makes us one.”
“It means rather a lot to us, we by no means thought that we might make followers in different international locations, however we did it. It was actually touching,” says TO1’s 21-year-old rapper, J.You. The group’s chief, Jaeyun, 22, provides that KCON is like their greatest good friend, and even household. “We have been in each KCON since our debut, so every thing is a good reminiscence to us.”
Cravity’s important dancer and rapper, Allen, 23, shared a number of the identical emotions. When he launched himself to the viewers on Saturday, proper after performing the graceful “Adrenaline,” he claimed it to be a full-circle second. In 2018, he attended KCON as a fan and hadn’t been in a position to return till now — as a performer.
“My mother, my brother, and my associates from faculty are all gonna be right here, as a result of I’m from L.A.,” he says hours earlier than hitting the stage, eyes shiny with pleasure. For fellow member, vocalist Minhee, 19, streaming Seventeen’s efficiency of “Very Good (아주 Good)” at KCON 2017 was one of many moments the place he thought, “I’m gonna be a star, I need to be there.”
Yeseo, the 17-year-old maknae (youngest member) of lady group Kep1er, had related inspirations. “It was my dream to be on a KCON stage as a result of I used to observe them on YouTube,” she says on Sunday, the morning after the group’s blazing efficiency. For Kep1er’s important vocalist Chaehyun, 20, their Saturday efficiency was additional particular as a result of they took half in Dream Stage, the audition-based exercise the place choose followers have been in a position to go on stage with the group and carry out their debut single, “Wa Da Da.” (On Sunday, LOONA carried out “PTT (Paint the City)” on Dream Stage with followers.) “[KCON] is the one place the place we might try this,” says Chaehyun. “Perhaps extra followers might be a part of us subsequent time, so we will take pleasure in it much more.”
That night time, Kep1er additionally coated “La Vie En Rose,” the debut music of the now-disbanded lady group IZ*ONE — Zheng’s final favourite group. “I actually remorse not coming to the 2019 KCON,” he says. “You may’t see, however my telephone display screen proper now continues to be [a photo of] IZ*ONE, they have been right here in 2019.” Zheng says that he had tears dripping down his cheeks whereas recording Kep1er’s efficiency. “That’s not what I often do, I’m probably not a delicate particular person, however it simply jogged my memory of all the great occasions [the fandom] WIZ*ONE and IZ*ONE had collectively. That night time I used to be particularly lacking them.”
Zheng’s expertise is only one of many exhibiting the transcendent and enduring energy of an occasion like KCON. Whereas its largest energy continues to be bringing to life experiences that almost all abroad followers wouldn’t in any other case have, typically simply feeling seen there’s sufficient, one thing that goes each methods. Jonny Lim, 28, a Korean translator working on the occasion, famous the significance of the occasion for followers however for artists as properly: “It’s so necessary for the artists to see all of the attain.”
“In the course of the pandemic, once we couldn’t see our followers, typically I misplaced the that means of why I do that job, why I am going on,” says TO1’s Jaeyun. “However now I don’t have any ideas like that.” His bandmate, dancer Kyungho, 21, agrees, saying that being on stage “provides us a touching feeling of being the principle character for our followers, and of eager to be [there] an increasing number of.”
Cravity’s chief, Serim, says he noticed one attendee carrying the very same outfit he as soon as wore to the airport, and others carrying the pink varsity jackets from the music video for his or her music “Adrenaline.” For him and his bandmates, seeing followers dressing up as their favourite Korean artists, carrying conventional Korean garments, consuming Korean meals, and making an attempt out Ok-beauty merchandise solely drills house the truth that Ok-pop’s international attain is astounding.
“I simply really feel like that’s what makes [KCON] so particular,” Cravity’s Allen says. “Ok-pop actually does deliver collectively many individuals and makes us one.”