The Korean pop culture festival KCON LA wrapped up its live edition on Sunday with a second multi-concert on the Crypto.com stage in Los Angeles.
The craze for Korean culture seems to have barely waned due to the COVID disruption, during which the genre’s digital natives all but come together and KCON morphs into KCON:TACT.
The seamless flow between online and offline iterations of the fanbase is a key feature of the convention, held in person for the first time since 2019. Organizers confirmed Monday that the three-day convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center drew more than 90,000 real-world visitors and an additional 7.17 million video streams from around the world.
“The Asian American community, they existed 12 years ago [when KCON started]. They are at home. Now they are everywhere. They don’t have a community,” said Kevin Woo, a San Francisco-native singer and actor who trained and found success in the Korean talent system. In mid-October, he’s heading to Broadway with “K-Pop: The Musical.”
In a presentation Friday, Woo talked about his own experiences with K-Pop and the intense and constant craze of the genre. “I envy this generation. You can use social media, create dance covers [in the U.S.] Seeing them spread like a virus, people returning to South Korea will see them too. But Woo also confirmed the enormous pressure on the Korean music industry. “You have to love attention.” You will have to sacrifice your private life for five years. At a minimum,” he said.
In the conference hall, most of these pressures and tensions were put aside and replaced by a series of fast-paced fan events (the idols meet the college-age crowd), dance instruction and dance competitions, one of which was called “Dance Relay” ‘, ‘ and lots of photo manipulation.
Many of the convention floor attractions feature video technology, allowing fans to virtually pose with stars or put themselves in sets of Korean dramas — the modern equivalent of twisted mirrors and your face from fairgrounds and circuses Go here to the cardboard cut out old.
College-age fans seem to have straddled America’s racial divide and embraced multiple aspects of South Korea’s soft power. These include stalls run by food and cosmetic companies.
The two-day Marketing Summit gave KCON LA a higher academic and business perspective. The sidebar includes insightful talks from American university professors as well as how-to talks from platforms like TikTok, designed to help U.S. businesses capitalize on K-waves themselves.
Event organizer CJ ENM also used KCON LA to audition for American hopefuls for a TV talent show that will launch next year. The show aims to discover a new global K-Pop boy band.
Confusingly, given its success at the Oscars and major film festivals, Korean cinema appears to be largely sidelined at this year’s convention. This may be corrected in future iterations, CJ ENM sources said.
This weekend, however, music was the main driver. A warm-up mini-concert on Friday featured KCON newcomers Cravity, Lightsum, Stayc and TO1. These new performances will next make their way to the Six Cities U.S. tour.
Saturday’s three-hour show features Ateez, Cravity, Enhypen, INI, Itzy, Kep1er, Lightsum and Stray Kids, along with Bebe Rexha performing “Break My Heart Myself” with Itzy.
Sunday was lit by Loona, NCT Dream, NMIXX, P1Harmony, Stayc, The Boyz, TO1 and WJSN. TO1’s set includes a cover performance of Psy’s “That That”.