Summer is upon us and the season brings a very special event to Hallyu fans around the world: KCON! This year, the event goes to four different locations: Japan, New York, Los Angeles, and Thailand.
As an avid fan of Korean culture, I was able to visit KCON 2019 NY presented by Toyota and experience the excitement. If you’ve never been to a convention before, especially KCON, it can be quite overwhelming! There is so much going on from panels to workshops to finding time to visit all the vendor booths. Here's an inside look at what went down at KCON 2019 New York!
- Klub KCON
Friday, July 5 was the unofficial start of the weekend. Before the actual convention starts, they set a day for fans to check in early and get ready for the artist engagements. This gave everyone time to get passes to see and meet the artists they like, and to get ready for the party that night. This year, Klub KCON had many fun guests to perform or make appearances, including rookie group ATEEZ, Korean alternative group Balming Tiger, singer-songwriter eSNa, idol singer Kevin Woo, and K-pop dance coverists Ellen & Brian. It was a fun time for fans to enjoy company and dance together!
The start of the convention brought new sights and experiences, and the location change to the Javits Center in NYC made it a more comfortable fit for the large number of fans attending. Additionally, it allowed for the selling of beverages, which was very relieving. While the shift to an indoor venue was great in terms of sunlight and temperature, it also kept us packed into tighter spaces and lines.
In one hall, there were vendors and photo opportunities. The convention hosted a huge marketplace for anyone looking to buy K-pop merchandise and makeup, and what was really great about the makeup vendors was that they included cruelty-free brands like Amika.
Fans could visit a bingo station to complete different tasks, such as attending panels and taking photos to win small prizes or even signed albums. Sponsor booths held their presence as well: Toyota had their classic dance floor and many goodies, Kung Fu Tea had plenty of bubble tea, and Tous Les Jours had a photo spot and a wheel for prizes. Agricultural sponsors hosted a K-Food Fair, where there was plenty of amazing food and snacks to try while little shows were put on by mimes and dancers. Also at the fair, you could try on traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) and even borrow an outfit to hang out in during the convention.
MNET had plenty of cute and Instagramable setups for photos, and a dance floor to groove along with your favorite dancers on the MCountdown stage. The Star Square was themed with all of the artists’ zodiac signs with a wall to write messages to everyone on the other side. They also had a little spot promoting their survival shows Produce x 101 and World Klass.
KCON NY 2019 provided many different panels and workshops with diverse panelists and topics. Whatever your niche is, there was something for you! In the main convention hall, the dance workshop area hosted many activities. For anyone looking to learn a choreography from the artists performing, they had a workshop for one song by all twelve of the originally-announced artists; and if you’re a fan of coverists, this was where you could spot a few of them, like Qxeddie, Katyathedancer, and GoToe.
Panels and fan club meetings were in a separate hall; the most popular were the games and discussions hosted by YouTubers. I attended the “Masculinity and Femininity in K-Pop” panel hosted by journalists and professors, which was very informative and a great way to start a conversation with my guest. I also attended the LGBT meetup/panel, which was a great continuation of the panel, and it was great to discuss something rarely talked about in K-pop.
Attendees could also attend fan club meetings! All twelve fandoms had time slots to meet up with each other, and get ready to see their favorite groups. As a fan of the group SEVENTEEN (Carat), I visited the meeting hosted by SVTCaratsUSA, where there were many fun activities and so many things to take home! Carats filmed a video for SEVENTEEN member Boo Seungkwan, who could not attend KCON due to an injury, and took some time to practice fanchants to their songs.
KCON provides many opportunities to see and interact with guests and artists outside of the concert. The KCON stage had plenty of performances all weekend, including the contest Cover Star K, talks with The Boyz and SF9, and even a few chefs. The new KCON Studio had appearances by (G)I-DLE and ATEEZ with some other programs going on, such as makeup demonstrations.
Star Square also had some visits from (G)I-DLE, ATEEZ, The Boyz, and Verivery. Through Star Square, they would give lucky fans the chance to hang with the artists and take pictures with them. Appearances are a surprise so you’ll never know who or when they’ll be there.
Lastly, when registering for the convention, there are add-ons you can buy to attend hi-touch sessions or audience engagements to watch them answer questions and see them up close. It’s a great opportunity for fans to be able to interact with their favorites even if they can’t meet them. Plenty of vendors give chances during the convention to win passes to different artist engagements or hi-touch sessions. My hi-touch was for a group that I have been a fan of for a long time, SF9! I was able to say a few words to each member while giving them high fives.
For many fans, the KCON concert is what they look forward to the most. Due to the new, bigger location at Madison Square Garden, even more artists were brought to the 2019 event than previous years, and every level of seating at the arena was good, from the floor to the very back. Night One included performances by rookie groups ATEEZ, IZ*ONE, The Boyz, and Tomorrow X Together (TXT); and also the well-known idol group, NU’EST. Everyone put on an amazing performance, giving their fans exactly what they came for!
NU’EST members Minhyun and Baekho did a duet special stage of the song “Lost Stars” from the movie Begin Again. As a group, they performed some of their older and newer songs with the standout being their beloved song “Love Paint.” IZ*ONE performed “Highlight” as a sneak preview to their set later in the night, where they sang their title tracks along with Produce 48 hits “Rumor” and “Pick Me.”
TXT performed all of their upbeat songs, including the English version of “Cat & Dog,” when you could hear an arena of people bark! The Boyz did a few special stages with their rookie stage cover of BTS’ “Fire,” and an earlier intro stage of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” They also performed their latest title track and other songs that were special to all their fans. ATEEZ opened up the night with a cover of Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” They later performed their latest title tracks and a few of their most popular hits, such as “Say My Name” and “HALA HALA.”
Night Two brought some fun pre-show stages from eSNa and Cover Star K Dance winners Haru. It was a fun way to hype everyone up for a great night of performances! Groups performing for this night included AB6IX, fromis_9, (G)I-DLE, SF9, Verivery, and SEVENTEEN.
Towards the start of the show, Verivery danced to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic," and later performed their fun and youthful songs with sparkly shoes. AB6IX kicked off the night with a cover of Charlie Puth’s “Attention,” and showed off all sides of their music from the slower “Shining Stars” to the harder song, “Hollywood.” Due to an injury, member Woojin performed sitting, however, that did not stop them from delivering a great performance!
Fromis_9 covered Red Velvet’s hit “Red Flavor” after their super “Fun” set filled with their most recent tracks. SF9 made sure to keep all their stages on the sexier side, covering EXO’s “Love Shot” before their own songs, including the very new “RPM.” (G)I-DLE had a very strong set from their cover to their own songs. Their special stage was a performance of “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago, and all the members were in little black dresses.
SEVENTEEN gave everyone what they came for, performing the unit songs “Rocket” and “Moonwalker” before later performing highly popular B-sides from the mini album You Made My Dawn as well as other tracks from throughout the years. Everyone put on a great show! Whether you know the artist or not, you’re bound to be entertained by everyone.
With 55,000 people in attendance for the weekend, KCON is really growing internationally! It’s always amazing to see such diversity within the fandoms from gender to race to age. This is an event to enjoy no matter where you come from, and though it can be overwhelming and confusing, it’s worth it! It’s a learning experience and you’ll meet so many different people, so I encourage you to go whenever it comes around.
Happy five years to KCON NY! Thank you for another amazing year and a wonderful time!
Written by Chey Olexa