KCON NY returned to Newark at the Prudential Center on June 23 and 24 this summer to spread the Hallyu Wave– the growing popularity of South Korean culture– to the United States.
Although its second year in the east coast, KCON has been the premier convention of “All Things Hallyu” for five years since its creation in 2012 as a one-day convention exclusively in California.
Since then, KCON has expanded up to a three-day convention that encompasses panels and workshops showcasing K-Dramas, K-Food, K-Fashion, and K-Beauty and extends across the globe to countries like Japan, France, and Mexico.
However, one aspect has remained as the convention’s main event that attracts fans across that globe: KPOP.
The Korean music genre was established in the 90s with elements reminiscent of the boy band and girl band craze that dominated the music charts at the time but still remains as the genre’s unique characteristic and one of South Korea’s biggest exporters.
YouTube and K-Pop acts like Girls’ Generation and global sensation, PSY, ignited the Hallyu Wave and has only been increasing as a result of ever-growing social media platforms that connect fans across the world without boundaries.
However, K-Pop is not so different from mainstream pop music since Western pop music influenced K-Pop’s musical style. So what makes it so unique and attract so many fans?
“More thought goes into K-Pop than music here [in the U.S.],” replies Ai Yuki from Indiana, referring how K-Pop presents itself more than just a music genre and expands to its own subculture with its own jargon and standards for both K-Pop artists and fans.
After all, these idols prove to be more than good looking entertainers who perform catchy songs and sharp choreographies in flashy outfits. It takes talent, skill, and sacrifice to become a K-Pop star. Only the best in the industry make the cut.
K-Pop companies also aim to create the best and personal fan experiences with high-quality album production, TV shows for their idols, official merchandise, artist-to- fan events, and posting content updating fans via social media.
Fan engagement plays a large role in its subculture as well as to its success.
One of KCON NY’s headliners, NCT 127, performed at “Today at Apple” in Brooklyn, NY. They earned that honor after being the first K-Pop group to be selected as Apple Music’s New Artist of the Week.
During the event, the members thanked their fans for spreading the popularity of K-Pop.
“It opens cultural barriers,” Asia Moore from Maryland describes her and fans’ experience, explaining how “music is universal” and fans using K-Pop as a gateway to learn more and appreciate South Korean culture.
Despite the language difference, Latin music has always been acknowledged as a music genre in America with growing airplay and Latino music artists.
“Despacito” has been at the top of music charts before the Justin Beiber remix but the collaboration opened a new audience and more opportunity for non-English songs to breakthrough in the U.S. music charts.
“More visibility and more opportunity,” Fuse music journalist and Billboard K-Pop columnist, Jeff Benjamin adds on explaining the high interest in K-Pop. Along with high-quality entertainment and cultural appreciation, the Hallyu Wave offers the Asian representation we need in U.S. media.
This year’s Billboard Music Awards, seven-member boy group, BTS, accepted their award on live American television for “Top Social Artist.” Their recognition did not only earn them praise for making Billboard history but backlash solely because of their race.
Even Atlanta-born K-Pop singer, Eric Nam decided to pursue music in South Korea versus the United States because of the “dearth” of Asians artist in the mainstream American music industry.
In many ways, it allows them to envision the limitless possibilities of their potential that the U.S. restricts with stereotypes, whitewashing, and erasure of Asians in media.
Furthermore, the K-Pop industry creates more opportunities for Asians to thrive in the entertainment industry since it does not only consist of Korean idols but East and Southeast Asian idols.
Many have been questioning when will this new music genre reach its peak in the U.S. music market and how long this “trend” will last.
Over the past few years, K-Pop has progressed and developed in the United States with increased media coverage.
Events like KCON show that K-Pop goes beyond catchy, Korean songs to represent a multilayered Korean music genre that transcends borders and barriers.
With more events and achievements to add to the genre’s notoriety, along with its increasing fan base, K-Pop won’t be slowing down anytime soon.