There’s only one person that Tina would fly to LA all the way from San Antonio, Texas, for, and that person is Kim Yugyeom.
“His smile is brighter than his highlighter yellow hair right now,” she said of her favorite and youngest member of the K-pop septet GOT7, who were in Los Angeles this past weekend to perform at the annual all-things-K-pop convention, KCON.
KCON Los Angeles, which according to organizers drew a record-breaking 85,000 this year, took place inside the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center from Aug. 18 to 20 for three days of connecting fans with their favorite artists and with each other.
Produced in partnership with the major Korean network Mnet, the convention’s two-night concerts this year featured mega-popular acts like Seventeen, GOT7, VIXX, NCT 127 and Super Junior D&E, as well as newcomers K.A.R.D., SF9, Wanna One and Cosmic Girls, soloist songbird Heize, Astro, Oh My Girl, Girls’ Day and g.o.d.’s Kim Tae Woo.Between the panels with music producers, famous internet personalities and the K-pop idols themselves, it’s difficult to determine what the best part of KCON is, but many attendees say that one of its biggest highlights is just being alongside fellow fans.
K-pop boy band GOT7 on the red carpet at KCON Los Angeles 2017. (Photo KCON)
Cosmic Girls on the red carpet at KCON Los Angeles 2017. (Mary Grace Costa/Kore Asian Media)
“It’s definitely getting more popular, but I also feel like despite all the popularity, [K-pop is] still a niche interest and we’re all still part of a niche community,” said Caitlin, a fan who was attending her second KCON. “It’s kind of cool just being here and seeing how many of us [fans] there are, and everyone is nice, KCON makes us feel really united.”
“As international fans, you think [the fandom] is really small,” said Meryll, another attendee. KCON attendees are a mash-up of seasoned K-pop fans and wide-eyed newcomers. “But then you go to events like these and you realize just how big it actually is and how big it’s grown. It’s really impressive.”
While Caitlin has only been a K-pop fan for a little over a year, others have been following their favorite groups for years. Fans like Maneth, who who was first exposed to K-pop by watching Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” video in 2009, have loved the genre for years. Others — like Meryll — traveled from outside of the city to be at KCON.
Maneth recalled the days when K-pop, for international fans, was just an entertaining, quirky genre one discovered on YouTube, complete with low-definition music videos, catchy songs and cool choreography. “It used to be a ‘down-low’ kind of thing, being into K-pop,” Maneth said. “Now, it’s everywhere.”
A fan attends an interaction event at KCON with boy band Astro. (Photo KCON)
SF9 at KCON Los Angeles 2017. (Mary Grace Costa/Kore Asian Media)
NCT 127 at KCON Los Angeles 2017. (Photo KCON)
Global success for one is global success for all when it comes to K-pop. Recently, groups like EXO and BTS have been doing their fair share of spreading K-pop around the world and getting recognition for the genre in the American music scene.
Powerhouse Live specializes in events promotion and marketing, having brought acts like Monsta X and B.A.P. here for U.S. tours. “We [come to] KCON in hopes to connect with the people that we sell our tickets to,” said Amy, who worked Powerhouse’s table at KCON this weekend. She said that she and her team value the face-to-face contact that the event is able to give them with the fans. “It gives us the chance to see what fans are interested in and what they’re not interested in.”
The convention also enjoys strong support from South Korean governmental organizations such as the Ministry of Small-and-Medium Enterprises and Startups and the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), who see the growing popularity of K-pop and Korean culture as a means to promote South Korea as a major player on the global social, economic and political stage.
(Tae Hong/Kore Asian Media)
Fans attend a dance workshop at KCON. (Tae Hong/Kore Asian Media)
Kevin Woo at KCON Los Angeles 2017 (Mary Grace Costa/Kore Asian Media)
Wanna One (Photo KCON)
KCON’s panel and workshop guests included Greg Bonnick and Hayden Chapman of the platinum-selling British music production duo LDN Noise, who led a panel Sunday in which they discussed their work and experience collaborating with S.M. Entertainment, the music label representing some of the biggest names in K-pop. Other panel speakers included Kairos, hit-making producers for JYP Entertainment, the classical musicians of ReacttotheK, a popular K-pop reaction channel on YouTube and digital influencers such as Edward Avila, who spent some time talking to fans at the Flower Boy Cafe, and Joan Kim, who retouched some fans’ makeup at a beauty booth.
KCON’s concert is promoted as a special edition of “M! Countdown,” Mnet’s weekly music show that airs in South Korea. On the first night, VIXX’s Leo and Girls’ Day’s Minah opened the concert with a performance of “City of Stars” as an homage to Los Angeles. Seventeen’s sub-unit groups each put on a short performance. SF9 and Cosmic Girls teamed up and led the crowd in a special dance performance of Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry” just before Super Junior members Donghae and Eunhyuk took the stage.
On the second night, Astro paired with Kim Tae Woo to perform some of g.o.d.’s hit songs. Wanna One danced to the theme song of the survival music show from whence their group was formed, “Pick Me.” JB and Jinyoung of the GOT7 subunit JJ Project performed their new song, “Tomorrow, Today.”