It’s officially summertime and you know what that means– it’s time for another KCON. KCON is the first ever Southern California K-pop convention that allows fans to celebrate Korean entertainment and culture.
We still have a few months before KCON 2014, but the recent confirmation of appearances by Girls Generation, CNBlue and IU have us sitting on the edge of our seats. We can’t help but reminisce about our experience last year and how much it opened our eyes. KCON showed us that it’s perfectly fine to be a Kpop fan even if you’re not Korean.
For today’s #FBF (Flashback Friday), we’ve decided to show you why you should be excited for this year’s KCON. Here is what we learned a year ago:
I first became interested in Kpop with the release of DBSK’s Hug in 2004. Like any young fangirl, I blew up my social media sites with pictures and videos of my newfound love. However, I received an overwhelming amount of criticism from friends:
“But you’re not Korean?”
“Why are you into this? You don’t even speak Korean.”
“Korean music is really weird.”
“But you don’t understand what they’re saying.”
Fast forward 9 years and the rise of Kpop has become a world-wide phenomenon. The very same people who questioned my interest in Kpop are now jamming to Big Bang and criticizing me yet again, but this time for not hearing the latest Kpop song.
My point? Times have changed and the perception of listening to Korean music is now very different. And while I knew things were different, this past weekend was still a major eye opener for me. It had not yet hit me just how many Kpop fans aren’t actually Korean. In fact, when a Korean co-worker told me that most of the hardcore fans are non-Korean, I assumed she was joking.
I was obviously proved wrong.
This past weekend was the 2nd annual KCON– a Kpop music festival held in the United States which presents an opportunity for American fans to come together and share their love for Korean Music. I expected the crazy fangirls, the intense cosplay, the neon-colored fan signs and the korean food galore. What I didn’t expect– and was pleasantly surprised to discover– was the cultural diversity of the event.
Upon entering the festival, I was met with a sea of color. No, not the bright pink Mnet bags and the neon green Bibigo balloons. The palette of ethnicities was beyond impressive. Because of my initial experience with Kpop, I had expected this festival to largely consist of Koreans along with a handful of Pan-Asians. I assumed that I would meet the same criticism that my friends initially gave me about being unable to understand the language, but a visit to the dance workshop area proved otherwise.
The stage was covered with every race you could think of: Caucasians, Latinos, African Americans and various other non-Asian folk. Not only did East Asians show their presence, but Southeast Asians and South Asians did as well. Fans who clearly stated they were not Korean were singing every single word of their favorite songs and impressively showcasing the intricate dance moves. Yes, these fans took time out of their lives to memorize lyrics to Korean songs without actually knowing Korean. Now that’s dedication.
The more time I spent at the festival, the more I came across cultural diversity. I came across a Caucasian man, well into his 30s, who excitedly purchased a heart-shaped fan with the pictures of 2am printed on it. I came across a group of Latina girls sporting G-Dragon hats, shirts and even sneakers. I came across a non-Asian boy, who couldn’t have been older than 12, perform the choreography of Growl so well that even EXO would have been impressed.
I came out of this KCON experience realizing that the beauty of this festival was not in the performers and the pretty concert. The beauty was in the fans who attended. Never once was anyone criticized for their racial background or their inability to speak Korean. This was a place for fans, whatever color they may be, to get together and celebrate their fandom. This was a place where it didn’t matter where you came from and how you looked — you were accepted because you loved the same thing.
As Korean American rapper Dumbfounded mentioned during his panel “Asian Americans in Hip-Hop,” Kpop is special because of the different kinds of people it can bring together. Clearly, Kpop should be applauded for the array of fans it has been able to captivate.
Good job, Kpop, you’re doing it right.
This story was originally published on Aug. 27, 2013.
Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.