So this year I finally went to my first KCon in New York City. For those of you that don’t know, K Con is a convention that highlights and celebrates Korean culture, food and entertainment. It is multicultural as people of different races and ethnicity partake in the festivities. It also includes a 2 day concert of up to 16 artist from the world of KPop. For a number of artist this will be their first time performing in the U.S.
I have to start out by saying that my friend Crystal, that got me into this entire world of KPop and KDramas asked me to to go with her in 2018. At the time I had only been into dramas and music for a little over 6 months and thought I wasn’t ready. I won’t make that mistake again. So first I’ll talk about the overall experience from the view point of a not so 20 something, the positives and negatives.
It was a feast for the eyes and ears for anyone who is either a novice, intermediate or an O.G. fan of Korean music and culture.
They had a live stage with performances of trainees from local talent agencies (The Born Star NYC) and interviews with rookie artist such as SF9, The Boyz and Fromis_9. They also had Korean food demos from Chef Jae Jung and Chef Youngsun Lee, and an awesome martial arts performances set to KPop music by Team Black K.
There was the KCon studio where they had live interviews with some of the biggest names in KPop social media. Big Marvel, Terry TV and Eddy. Now to be honest most of the people they were interviewing I had no idea who they were until I got there. Let me tell you though, in their own right, these stars of social media were receiving just as many screams as the artist.
Now who would have thought you could get your cardio in at a con, not me. Well let me tell you the RPD (Random Dance Play) stage was non stop all day long. A live DJ played songs from NCT 127, BTS, BlackPink, Twice, Girls Generation and more. The amount of hard work, practice and dedication in learning each intricate move and dance step of these idols was so present at this stage. There was an array of different genders and ages, mostly teens with good joints, showing off their dance moves. Some of them could definitely audition for one of the Big 4 entertainment companies (yes, I’m including Big Hit) and become trainees.
There were a number of vendors on hand ready to take your money. Selling everything from apparel, posters, pins, CD’s and DVD/Blu-ray box sets of your favorite KPop artist.
As many of you know Korean Beauty products have been a hot bottom topic for the last few years. Everything from the 10 step regiment to plastic surgery. Well, KCon did not disappoint when it came to having beauty products available for purchase. There were several vendors and companies ready to take your money and leave you with glittery eyes and baby soft skin. Didn’t matter if you could only spend $1 or $50, you could walk away with a little take home beauty in your bag
Both Saturday and Sunday provided an opportunity the socialize, learn, explore and fan out with like minded individuals.
There were fan club rooms set up to meetup with other fans of the KPop groups performing at the KCon NY 19 concerts. I peaked into one room where everyone was introducing themselves, sharing pics and doing some of the dances from their favorite idols MV (music videos). There was even one section of time in the schedule set up for just meeting new people called Speed Friending. It allowed those that may be solo or just want to make new friends to come together in one space away from the hustle of the main floor.
Also added to the schedule were workshops ranging from dance to arts and crafts. There were workshops to learn the dance moves of you favorite rookie idols or at least try to learn. Arts and crafts were in full force with a workshop in making your own patches and fan signs. You could participate in paint nite, or even debate others about your favorite idols. The one workshop I was excited about was Hallyu Over 30. It was all about fans over 30 meeting and talking about the in and outs of being a mature fan. Now you know this was the workshop for me, however I had to miss it because of an overlap of schedules for a panel. Speaking of panels…..
So many panels over the course of two days. A little bit of everything for everyone. KCon brought in an array of industry professionals, influences and You Tube stars to share there experiences and insight.
Live music performed by one of my favorite You Tubers React to the K. They are a group of music students from Eastman School of Music in upstate New York that critique and comment on Korean Pop, R&B and Hip Hop. These talented musicians performed covers of some of KPops most popular songs and a medley of songs arranged by one of their own.
They had music industry writers from Billboard, MTV News, Forbes and Reddit to discuss the trails of writing about an industry that is not new yet new to so many in the U.S. They spoke about sometimes the difficulty of reporting on the ever changing KPop industry, time differences and of course language.
There was a panel on How to Break into You Tube with some of the most popular stars that report, react or talk about Korean music and entertainment. Reactors like Dezzy March, Form of Therpy, Terry TV and DKDKTV were there to discuss the trails and tribulation of You Tube and the very real threat of being “cancelled”.
So, from my understanding the past 4 years of KCon NY were held in a parking lot across from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Although not an ideal location, especially in the summer, I’m told that there were more vendors (food trucks, merchandise, apparel, beauty) and activities. People that have attended in the past said that vendors that they follow on social media mentioned that due to the new venue they would not be able to participate this year. It is unfortunate that businesses that have build a relationship with customers and fans in the community were not able to come to an agreement. Now maybe it’s because the Jacob Javitz Center has a food court with vendors that are contracted with them. However for an event that promotes and celebrates Korean culture, it’s disappointing that an agreement could not be arranged.
I did find that the space available was not fully utilized. Maybe it’s because the organizers are used to such a smaller space. One of my biggest pet peeves is so many You Tubers/Influences were mobbed for photos or just to say hello. Knowing the Javitz as well as I do, I know there were more than enough rooms for organized fan meet and greets. I’m sure it would have been appreciated by both fans and You Tubers/Influences.
A number of booths felt spaced out with no real organization or flow. I was also expecting more vendors than were actually their, especially some of the bigger names. However as I stated above, a few vendors were not able to attend due to the new venue.
There was a Korean Food fair announced along with the Con. Now I was thinking 15 or 20 booths from restaurants, manufacturers, distributors from some of Korea’s biggest brands. Unfortunately there were less than 10 and for most there was a 30 minute wait or more for a sample. Some of the listed food sponsors (Kung Fu Tea, Tous les Jours, Subway, Chip Ahoy) didn’t even have food, they just had info and prizes. The only vendor allowed to have a food truck inside the venue was Red Barron pizza. REALLY?! Pizza?!!! Not even the usual Korean food trucks were allowed. SMH.
Apparently i’m not the only person the only person that may not have been pleased by the new venue. In a recent survey sent out by the organizers of KCon they asked attendees if they preferred New York or New Jersey venue. It will interesting to see what happens next year.
So many positives that definitely outweighed any of the negatives. More importantly, it shows the reason why a con of this nature is so important.
The one thing that I noticed in the two days at KCon is the sense of community. Throughout the entire venue you saw people interacting with strangers to discuss an artist, or teach dance routines or just to say how much they liked an outfit.
For a couple of hours on Sunday I was solo. There were a few staged sections to just take pictures of yourself or with a group of friends. I had only wanted to take pics of the scenery that they set up because they were too adorable. A women, who was also solo, saw I was taking pics and asked if I could take a picture for her with her in the scene, then she would take my pic for me. It was that type of environment that anyone felt comfortable to just ask a stranger to be picture buddies.
Other than Comic Con have I seen a group of people from all backgrounds, races, genders and sexual orientations come together just to enjoy and fan out. I saw so many young people (13-18) just wear what they wanted, whether that was a rainbow crop top and sweatpants or short shorts and a BTS t-shirt ripped up with platform boots. Size didn’t matter, age didn’t matter, gender didn’t matter , it was all love. My friend Tracy is not a KPop fan or had any previous knowledge of Korean entertainment, but just came for the experience. She said how much she enjoyed being there, because of how much everyone was so comfortable with themselves, in expressing themselves and enjoying everything with a bunch of strangers.
What I Learned
Over the course of two days I can clearly say I have found my tribe. Well, at least one of many. As someone of a particular age, I know how important it is to find something that makes you happy, feel complete and invigorated. It’s even more beautiful when you can find and express that something when you’re young. Sometimes it’s right in your backyard and some times it’s 7,000 miles away in another country. I saw families enjoy and explore. I saw so many young people just enjoy themselves with their friends and make new ones. Whether in New York or New Jersey, I will definitely be back! Cause this is my community now, and I like it here!