February 2018 Summer 2018

Postcard from KCON

This two-day festival of Korean pop music and culture shows how fast genre is growing in America.

By Sofia Plonchak

Going to KCON can introduce people to the world of Korean pop music, known by many fans as K-pop. K-pop is getting bigger in the U.S.—It was featured in the February 2018 issue of In Tune with the band BTS on the cover.

KCON is a combination of concert festival and convention. The New York event is the East Coast version of Los Angeles’s KCON event, which debuted in 2012 and will be held in August this year.

Held over a June weekend in Newark N.J., KCON 2018 NY featured 10 Korean groups/artists as well as special guests and panels on subjects like the evolution of K-pop, “Behind the Scenes” with multi-hit songwriter and producer Ryan Jhun, and workshops on everything from cooking to journalism to dance. For many—including fan club members and other K-pop lovers—it was a chance to meet others who share a passion for the music, talk about our favorite artists, and enjoy other aspects of Korean culture (including food!).

Language Is no Barrier

On question people have about KPOP is the language. Do you have to speak Korean to get into the music? Even though I’ve picked up a few words or Korean, I don’t speak the language. I feel that even if the music is in another language, people can still enjoy it. Not only the rhythm and beat of songs—many K-pop songs also have really visually appealing music videos. Being a K-Pop fan might even inspire you to learn Korean.

Hearing a variety of artists at KCON, you also notice how many musical styles come together in KPOP. It isn’t just pop, but R&B, hip-hop, Latin, and indie music all mixed together. Recently, a lot of my favorite K-Pop songs have had sort of a Latin vibe to them. Two of my favorites are “Lo Siento” by Super Junior featuring Leslie Grace and “Airplane, Pt. 2” by BTS.

At KCON, Super Junior actually performed “Lo Siento” with Leslie Grace, which was really exciting. What’s really cool about the song is that the words are mixture of English, Korean, and Spanish. Collaborating with an artist from another genre can open up KPOP artists to different audiences—and bring that artist to Korean audiences too.

The KCON performance lineup was split into two nights. On Saturday, Stray Kids, Heize, Pentagon, Red Velvet, and Super Junior performed. On Sunday Golden Child, Fromis_9, Exid, NCT 127, and Wanna One performed. Each group did three to six songs.

In addition to the music, there were dance workshops, a variety of panels, and soooo much Korean food. There was a “Star Talk” stage where artists were interviewed in front of a live audience.

Anyone can enjoy KCON. You can learn about a new culture and meet so many amazing people. Many YouTubers who base their channels around K-Pop, K-beauty, and Korean culture also attend KCON. I got to meet some of the YouTubers that I watch and love, including Kass, Michelle, and Krystal from KMREACTS.

But in the end, the best part of KCON was the amazing music, and getting to see group after group perform in person.

Photo: NCT 127 (Credit: CJ Entertainment)