The Spica girls strut their stuff at KCON 2015. Photo courtesy KCON 2015
As I lined up at KCON 2015 at Jeju Public Sports Complex, I felt a little embarrassed as the (seemingly) oldest person among screaming teenage girls.
Created in 2012 by Koreaboo alongside Mnet America and CJE&M, KCON is the world’s largest celebration of Korean popular culture and aims to be the flagship event for the K-pop industry and the Korean Wave, or Hallyu.
Previously held in the US and Japan, for 2015 it brought its K-pop delights to the shores of Jeju Island on Nov 6 and 7 in Jeju City.
Photo courtesy KCON 2015
I have to admit I was pretty new to it all, despite having heard Korea’s world-famous popular music blare endlessly from radios, taxis and bars.
With my official press pass making me feel like a rock star, or at least someone who could brush shoulders with one, I was led backstage.
I expected rock ‘n’ roll hedonism, but when I peeped inside a dressing room all I saw were wholesome-looking performers doing leg stretches. Then, when I entered the press room expecting freebies, all I found was bottled water.
It was a sobering introduction to the world of the modern pop star, but thumping bass (and wristbands, ponchos and hot packs placed on chairs) suggested things were warming up outside.
To see K-pop in all its glory, we moved right to the front of the stage. As darkness fell, lights illuminated the scene and BlockB, a seven-member boy band, came out to deafening beats.
The girls in the crowd screamed in synchrony with the band’s provocative and choreographed thrusts, which failed to completely rid them of their innocent aura.
From debutants to veterans, all sides of K-pop were on show.
Photo courtesy KCON 2015
The crowd then became hysterical when they asked, in downtown Jeju City, “Does anyone live in Jeju?”
Kangnam, a handsome man with a shock of bleach blonde hair, was next out. He included a rendition of Gangnam Style in his repertoire and fittingly wore over-sized black sunglasses and an eye-catching blue suit for the occasion.
His fist-pumping and head-banging was infectious. Was that my foot tapping, too? I was clearly a K-pop devotee much sooner than expected.
He then stopped, stepped back, was handed some cue cards, and joined his co-presenter for the rest of the show. A man of many talents, our Kangnam.
The stage was set for a night of entertainment. Photo courtesy
Next on stage was Roy Kim. Despite my expectations, he was not a middle-aged British man, but a sensual ballad singer whose soulful tunes provided my sensory system with time to recover after the dance beats.
The downtime was short-lived, as next out was spicy girl group Spica, followed by the bouncy TEENTOP. By the end of the two groups’ dance routines, I could appreciate the need for the extensive dressing-room warm-ups I had witnessed.
In fact, what impressed me most was the amount of effort and preparation each act had clearly put into the show, and none more so than Chinese Chen Zi, who showed no nerves despite singing in both Korean and Chinese on her debut.
Far from debutants, next up was SG Wannabe, 10-year veterans of the K-pop scene. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands, using dramatic facial expressions and pauses to get them going. I was witnessing the Westlife of Korea.
▲ The K-pop lads. Photo courtesy KCON 2015
Even they were babies compared to Shin SeungHoon, a 25-year veteran. His songs were interspersed with motivational speeches and, not for the first time on the night, I found myself dancing and clapping along.
Shinhwa was the final act to enter, and their sparkly matador outfits, and Michael Jackson-like moves, were met with one of the loudest cheers of the night. Despite miming their way through the routine, their devoted fans (clad in orange Shinhwa ponchos) were more than satisfied.
The crowd, in fact, were a picture of positivity throughout, even when the rain began to fall.
Fireworks end the night at KCON 2015. Photo courtesy KCON 2015
As we walked away, spectacular fireworks were set off to bring the curtain down and I reflected on an eventful evening. It had begun a bit loud and brash, and it might not be that insightful or meaningful, but I liked the unpretentiousness of Kpop.
K-pop is about entertainment, escapism and fun and, as I hummed the songs on the way home, I decided that perhaps that is what Korean youth (and a few curious foreigners) need from time to time.
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