Published on August 19th, 2018 | by gareth0
Article by Trista and Sara.
Starcraft, Overwatch… there is more to South Korea than e-gaming. One of the biggest cultural exports from the Korean Peninsula hit Los Angeles this past weekend as KCON 2018 LA kicked off bringing kpop, kbeauty, and kdrama to an international audience of some 94,000 attendees. Kpop, while still a bit of a niche interest for American listeners has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decade, and gaining more notice worldwide given the legions of loyal listeners, and their social media cache. Groups like Wonder Girls, Super Junior, Big Bang, and PSY (of Gangam Style fame) helped paved the way for the idol group BTS and their legion of fans (dubbed ARMY) to establish a foothold with American media. While BTS has not appeared on an American KCON stage since 2016 their presence is still felt bringing a record number of attendees to this years event.
The highlight of KCON are the concerts held at the Staples Center, split over two nights. Multiple artists covering several genres perform their own hits as well as collaboration/special stages seen only on the KCON stage and broadcast via livestream as part of M Countdown–one of South Korea’s best known music shows. Mini games made popular on Korean variety shows also allow for fan interaction and artists to further engage with their fans, many who spent hours in queue to get a spot close to the stage.
The first night welcomed Dynamic Duo and Crush to the stage along with soloists Mia, and Ailee. Groups Davichi, Golden Child, IN2IT, Momoland, TWICE and Wanna One joined them playing to a packed house. The stand out performances of the night where those from Twice members Jihyo, Momo, Tzuyu who covered Beyonce’s ‘End of Time’ and Korean American Ailee who commanded the stage in a manner reminiscent of Queen Bey herself. The fans roared as she walked from one end of the stage to the other before performing her hit ‘I Will Show You.’ AILEE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx1vSp-xZ7E
KCON Day 1 Highlights: https://youtu.be/rtOraBI3aCk
Twice, the only artist present from one of the Big Three record labels in South Korea were poised and polished as they performed several songs including their two latest releases ‘What is Love’ and ‘Dance the Night Away’ for their fans. Wanna One, one of the most popular boy groups in South Korea currently closed out the evening. The group, which was created from a reality/survival show, has a very limited amount of time on their contract remaining before they return to existing groups or move on to solo careers. This made their performance especially memorable for the Wannables (fans of WannaOne) in attendance, seeing what is likely their final stage performance in America after having played several venues across the US on their summer tour. –
KCON Day 2 Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2OiU0T1Ctg
Concert Night Two the boy groups reigned supreme with groups IMFACT, Nu’Est W, Pentagon, and Seventeen taking the stage. Soloists Roy Kim, and Jun Sung “Curry” Ahn held their own while fromis_9 and Dreamcatcher – two up and coming female groups – joined former I.O.I. member Chung Ha for a special stage performing Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana,’ Fitz and the Tantrums’ ‘HandClap,’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘God is A Woman’ after performing their own hits.
KCON Day 3 Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHzz-ZbpYCA
For those not wishing to attend the concert, a separate, albeit nominal fee grants admission to the convention floor and panels for all three days. A la carte pricing is available for various artist engagement packages and is lottery based, offering fans the chance to attend Q&A sessions for their favourite groups or earn a coveted Hi-Touch ticket allowing them to directly interact with an artist.
The convention floor itself was always busy but never felt overwhelmingly crowded apart from when idols were entering or exiting the floor for engagements at booths or the KCON Stage as fans queued to catch a glimpse of their idols. Split into various sections, the k-beauty section appeared to be one of the most popular with Amore Pacific, one of the main event sponsors bringing their brands Innisfree, Laneige, and Mamonde to the forefront offering samples of their best known products. Korean healthy and beauty store Olive and Young (a subsidiary of CJ and also an event sponsor) had both skincare and makeup essentials on hand. Smaller brands offered their wares for purchase and some good deals could be scored -especially for those waiting until the final day of the event.
Local brick and mortar stores Choice Music LA and Music Plaza were both present offering up albums, posters, and other official merchandise. Their booths were busy all three days of the convention, are our favorites when buying albums. They are a must stop visit when in Koreatown. Both stores have an fantastic online presence and offer reasonable shipping, and pre-orders for soon to be released albums. Note -we are not affiliated with either store, but appreciate that we can order items directly from a US shipper -something that was near impossible a few years ago. While physical media is not typical for American artists anymore, it is alive and thriving for the overseas markets. GORGEOUS albums complete with photobooks are the standard along with post cards or posters as ‘free’ giveaways when pre purchasing. Please watch our site for upcoming album and DVD reviews.
The panels were hit or miss depending on the presenter and their preparation (or lack thereof). Some panels were fantastically educational, while others were clearly more about the presenter wanting to tell you how fantastic they were, instead of informing you about the topic they were to present. One presenter even went so far as to say they forgot they had to do this, and had nothing prepared. However, most of the panels were very well presented, and succeeded in the goal of promoting the Hallyu wave. Each panel we attended was nearly full with some even reaching capacity and having to deny entry. Industry insiders, beauty influencers, and youtube reviewers each offered a unique perspective on the world of kpop The most popular panels were the Dance Workshops, where attendees were able to learn their favorite kpop dances second only to the cooking presentations.
A new feature at the 2018 LA KCON was the inaugural Super Rookie Showcase. Making their American Performance Debut – Attendees were treated to special stages from rookie groups IN2IT (MMO Entertainment, Stone Music Entertainment), IMFACT (Star Empire), and fromis_9 (Stone Music Entertainment). Each performed on a different day of the convention on a special stage on the convention floor, to the delight of the KCON crowd. IN2IT and fromis_9 were both created from Korean reality music programs which allowed them to solidify their fanbase prior to debut and helped grow interest in these rookie groups. Nine girls were selected from the program Idol School to form fromis_9, and IN2IT was formed from seven boys who survived from Boys24.
For those interested in k-drama and movies, the two main outlets for international fans both had booths available. Dramafever and Viki offer a subscription service available on multiple platforms as well as many shows that are free to watch with adverts. For a nominal monthly fee you can stream fully subbed movies and programs -minus the ads- as well as gain access to exclusive dramas currently airing in South Korea. Skewed_pop will have a future article with more details about the pros and cons of both options in a future article.
Overall, our takeaway from KCON 2018 LA was very positive – It was well organized, and had a enough variety to keep you occupied on all three days of the convention. We did find the convention floor to be very crowded at times -usually when artists were entering or exiting the floor.
The actual layout was somewhat cumbersome to navigate and prevented us from being able to access some of the larger sponsored booths until the final minutes of the convention. By the time we were able to visit some of them, they were depleted of stock and were packing up. A few large booths had multiple points of entry, each with their own samples at the end, which meant that if you wanted to be able to test all the products you would have had to spent time in three seperate lines just to be handed your sample. While full size products were on hand to trial they could not be purchased -nor was anyone available to actually talk about the brand as staff were overwhelmed by attendees and the queues they had created.
While social media is very important for brands today, nearly everyone asked you to follow them on multiple social media accounts, and give your email address before they would present you with your free sample of their beauty product. This lead to large clumps of people blocking the walkway while waiting for instagram to load before they could claim their prize.
The largest draws of the convention floor were the KCON stage, and the Toyota Dance Floor. The KCON stage definitely needs more space in the future, as the groups they showcased drew a very large crowd. For some acts, it was impossible to pass in the front as the crowd blocked the entire walkway. The main convention sponsor, Toyota, had their booth with dance floor prominently located at the main entrance to the convention hall. Every day the dance floor was packed with people dancing enmass to the kpop choreography, and surrounded by people snapping photos, and video. This caused a lot of congestion entering the convention floor, and the need for larger dance floor was apparent.
While albums and posters were readily available, there was very little official merchandise offered for the more established and better known groups. Given the high shipping costs associated with obtaining these items it is understandable that the local suppliers do not have many of these items on hand, however the larger entertainment companies had zero presence at the event and are missing an opportunity by not offering their goods direct to consumers. Likewise fan art and fan created items were non-existent which was surprising given the propensity of fans to create amazing pins, stickers, buttons, washi tape and other stationery items with the proceeds typically being used for fan projects for their idols or for charity.
All in all it is likely we will be returning next year for KCON as it covers the gamut of Korean entertainment. The artists attending are of course the biggest draw but the convention itself is a great starting point for anyone new to kpop or even for those who have fallen deep down the kpop rabbit hole. The abundance of content and the inclusive feel of the event goes along way in further spreading the Hallyu wave as a brand
For more SKNR – Skewed_pop, follow Trista & Sara at:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/skewedandreviewed/
SKNR Editor – @SKNRGareth
Tags for posting:
#MOMOLAND, #Golden_Child, #IN2IT, #DynamicDuo, #Crush, #Ailee, #ChungHa #Davichi #Dreamcatcher #fromis_9 #IMFACT #MIA #Nu’estW #Nu’est #Pentagon #RoyKim #Seventeen #Twice #WannaOne #JUN #kbeauty #Laniege #AmorePacific #Mamonde #Innisfree #OliveYoung #kdrama #viki #dramafever #ChoiceMusicLA #MusicPlaza #KCON18LA