After braving uncharted waters on the east coast, KCON 16 NY presented by Toyota proved it’s only getting bigger and better. Growing from its freshmen installment, KCON New York (held in New Jersey due to proximity) hosted two days of convention and concerts, allowing fans to meet more artists, vendors, panelists, and more, than they did last year. Held in what is becoming the hub of K-pop concerts in New York’s metro area, Newark’s Prudential Center, on June 24 and 25, KCON proved that they mean to make the east coast event as grand as the LA one has grown into over the years.
Throughout the weekend, fans practically littered the streets; partaking in all of the events and festivities while waiting for the evening concerts or fan engagements that occurred throughout the day. Even if con-goers didn’t plan on attending the concerts, KCON was a great place to experience not only K-pop, but also everything that comes with the Hallyu wave; such as dramas, food, and other products. KCON 2016 in New York was definitely a step up and in the right direction from last year while still keeping to its roots in providing “All Things Hallyu.”
One very noticeable difference was the amount and the variety of booths available this year. Seeing the great turn-out from the past year, many vendors and groups set up not only to sell fan-made good and band merchandise but also expanded into Korean goods and cosmetics. Each booth offered something a little different; from fun games and karaoke sessions to free food samples, raffles, and prizes. The Toyota tent was the largest and housed a DJ that provided music for all of the convention goers to listen and dance along to. Groups of fans were able to come together and danced in-sync to all of the latest K-pop hits.
New to this year’s KCON was an outdoor convention stage which hosted performances and games throughout the weekend. Not to mention there was a makeshift food court where festival goers could indulge on Korean street snacks and other random food-truck fare.
Also on KultScene: KCON 2016 NY’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap
Panels & Workshops
The marketplace was not the only thing in the convention to double in size, there were also larger panel and workshop tents to accommodate the growing crowd. This year’s panels offered opportunities to hear industry insiders (including Kultscene’s very own co-founders Alexis and Tamar who made their debuts as KCON panelists at “Evolution of K-Pop Music,” “Cross Cultural Clashes In Hallyu,” and “From K-Pop Fan to K-Pop Professional”), popular YouTubers (such as Nutty Nomads), and producers (like SM Entertainment’s iDR) talk about the latest K-pop and Drama trends, as well as address social issues within the community. The workshops held by Soko Glam and Glow Recipe gave fans a chance at hands on experience with Korean beauty products and routines, as well as making popular Korean snacks.
If the free convention or the concert didn’t coax fans into attending KCON NY, then it’s the fan engagements. Available to the right ticket and scratch card holders, the fan engagements usually consists of a Q&A session followed by a hi-touch event, offering a wonderful opportunity for fans to interact with their faves.
But be warned! More time will be spent waiting in line than at the actual fan engagement. While one artist is holding their fan engagement session, a line is already snaking around the side of the Prudential Center’s Barnabas Health Hockey House for the next. Attendees with hi touch passes were let in first, followed by those with audience passes, who tragically were only able to participate in the Q&A session but not the hi fiving with their idols.
With Day6, as one of the group’s native English speakers, Jae naturally did the most talking. The boys spoke about how they wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building during their stay in the New York metropolitan area (“I know it sounds super tourist-y but we haven’t seen it so…” says Jae) and how they were looking forward to their first U.S. performance at KCON before moving onto the main event — the hi-touches. It was over as soon as it started, but they didn’t leave without huddling together with fans in the background for a few selca (self camera) shots on their selfie sticks to commemorate the event.
Right after Day6’s fan engagement was conveniently Mamamoo’s and, while it was delayed due to the girls being stuck at rehearsals, that didn’t deter audiences from welcoming the members as boisterously as they did. Ardent fans waved their official lightsticks shaped like radishes, while one innovative individual twirled theirs constructed out of a cardboard box and giant cutouts of the girl’s faces, when the group decked out in their stage outfits finally made their appearance. In order to make up for lost time, the Q&A was abruptly cut short to allow hi-touches to go underway.
Last year, KCON NY didn’t host a red carpet, so fans were more than pleased to learn that, like LA, they would have a chance to watch the artists performing that night, as well as special guests like actors Im Si Wan (also known as a member of the boy band ZE:A) and Park Bo Young. Danny Im, from the “Danny from LA” Mnet show and ‘90s group 1TYM, hosted the event.
The first group up was SEVENTEEN, whose size forced Danny had to move around quite a bit to talk to all the 13 members. Next up, BTOB talked about… their shorts… and expressed their excitement to perform in New York for the first time. With this group, Danny struggled a bit with the translation, but not with Im Si Wan who shined for his effort and clarity speaking English.
Looking dapper, Crush rolled on the red carpet wearing a crisp suit and shared his nervousness over performing on stage by himself. Last year he had Zion. T to accompany him in LA, but this year he was riding solo. Same thing with Dynamic Duo, who also wore suits that made them look very classy and enhanced their charisma. They even said that they were excited about trying the chicken and rice halal truck.
But one of the night’s highlights was Ailee, given this was the first time the Jersey native was performing in her hometown. As per usual, the singer was all smiles when greeting everyone in attendance. She hinted at a possible collaboration with her friend and fellow performer Eric Nam, which fans got to witness the next night at the concert. Lastly, the “Oh My Ghostess” actress Park Bo Young received DramaFever’s Best Actress Award on stage and expressed her gratitude to the fans for watching the drama.
The next night, the red carpet hosted less attendees. Despite the fact that the guys of BTS and Day6 would be attending, it seemed fans were more interested in getting a good spot in the venue. First up were the lovely ladies of Mamamoo. Decked in amazingly cute outfits, they talked about this being their first time in New York and raved about Shake Shack. Then, the KCON LA regular but first time performer Eric Nam strolled down the red carpet looking as cheerful as ever, cracking jokes, also talked about Shake Shack, and overall expressed his excitement to perform by jumping around.
Looking enthusiastic but slightly tired, the next act up was Day6. Being the jokesters that they are, the members challenged each other to speak English, making fans laugh. However, things got crazy once BTS came out. Emulating Crush and Dynamic Duo, Bangtan also came out in suits. While Suga showed lots of love to the US Army, V looked a little out of it, and Rap Monster obviously did most of the talking.
Check out the rest of the pictures from KCON 16 NY, including more from the red carpet, here:
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Katrina Lobaton, Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelum, Katherine Villalon, Shelley Foo, and Tamar Herman contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.