With each installment, KCON outdoes itself, and this year was no different. Held for the second year in a row (fifth in total) at the Los Angeles Convention Center, KCON 16 LA Presented by Toyota received 76,000 fans throughout July 29, 30, and 31 and pre-registration for the convention doubled from 2015. This year, the event expanded from the typical K-music and K-drama related booths and activities emphasis and hosted more diverse booths and panels including beauty, food, and gaming booths, which allowed con-goers to entertain themselves with far more options than previous years.
Walking into the convention hall, the first thing you saw was the Toyota stage featuring dancers (and occasionally idols like GFRIEND who showed up on the second day) and the Soompi booth where you could spin a wheel and walk away with “K-pop Trash” swag. And then you were accosted by every possible product remotely related to South Korea on display at the booths filling up the room.
You wanted snacks? You could pick up chocolate ab lollies at the Dramafever booth or stop by the SnackFever booth for some trendy snacks like Pepero cookie sticks or Crunky chocolate bars. And, if you were lucky enough to book a time slot, you could get some food at the Flower Boy Cafe. Yes, a cafe where handsome looking men would go out of their way to make the customers happy.
Also on KultScene: KCON 2016 LA’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap
And, of course, we can’t forget about the K-beauty. Don’t worry. There was a whole “beauty block” especially for beauty booths with a different makeup or skin care product in every direction you looked. K-beauty fave brands like The Face Shop and Etude House were readily available, while stores like Glow Recipe, Soko Glam, and Meme Box were also selling goods. And if you stopped by NYX’s booth, you could get a free application of lipstick or eyeshadow and walk away with a full-size sample or two (or even three).
This year, the convention stage was a bit more active than last year, hosting live bands, aegyo battles, and live beauty tutorials. On Friday, KOCCA (Korea Creative Content Agency) hosted K-Pop Night Out featuring indie bands Dead Buttons, Love x Stereo, and Sultan of the Disco. Despite a few hiccups with the sound and an initial low turnout, by the end of the show, the indie bands had drawn a very specific crowd (mainly older than your average K-pop fan and corporate Koreans) and made everyone there dance and sway.
Another new thing this year was the debut of KCON.TV, a video platform and online community that live streamed KCON throughout the whole weekend. In addition to stream the concerts, KCON.TV also aired interviews with celebrities conducted by popular YouTubers like BapMokja and Haeppy. Their booth at the convention also hosted mini meet and greets with YouTubers and even Justin Kim, an ex-contestant on America’s Next Top Model.
Panels & Workshops
The panels at KCON LA were more diverse than ever this year, with directors of dramas in one room chatting about their inspiration as K-beauty gurus gave people tips in another and YouTubers performed dance covers in another. Want to learn Korean? There’s a workshop or two for that. Want to hear what it’s like producing for idols? Yup, you guessed it. Any and every sort of topic relating to Korean pop culture (films, music, television, etc.) were covered at the second half of the con.
The only downside of this year’s panels were that they were a far walk and additional security check away from the main convention hall, meaning that people had to make quite the effort to go and access them.
The second day of KCON’s convention came to conclusion with the red carpet ahead of that night’s concert, hosted by first generation idol Danny Im. And boy did the stars come out to talk to. Beginning with the handsome Lee Minho himself, the crowd was full of cheers for one of Korea’s top actors as he expressed his delight at meeting LA fans and his desire to go surfing, just like his character did in 2013’s “The Heirs.”
Next up was another solo male, but this time it was the relative newcomer DEAN, who had just finished his fanmeet a few moments before. The endearing singer-songwriter also had a warm welcome from the crowd as he posed like a rockstar (sticking out his tongue and all), especially as he broke into a quick rendition of his song “21.”
Following the men were a gaggle of girls, namely I.O.I (11 members) and GFRIEND (6 members). The two girls groups clearly won over the hearts of the audience. I.O.I’s Somi, who is half Dutch-Canadian and half Korean, did most of the talking for the group and expressed the team’s happiness at being at KCON so shortly after their debut. GFRIEND, decked out in light pink gowns, expressed similar feelings. (They would both excite the audience later that night with their dance-pop songs).
After the ladies left the stage, Danny, who was part of 1TYM, reunited with once-rivals (well, at least they both were angling for top place in the late ‘90s) Turbo. Turbo’s Kim Jong Kook (yes, Running Man Kim Jong Kook) and Mikey did most of the talking, but the older act definitely surprised with their playful personalities.
Ending off the first night’s red carpet were two SM Entertainment acts. f(x)’s Amber, who was performing at KCON solo for the first time, received a huge warm welcome, which may or may not have had to do with the fact that a) she’s a fan favorite b) she’s from LA. SHINee, that night’s headliners, then came on to end the red carpet with their winning smiles and every glance they took had a fangirl fainting in the audience. (Not really, but the screams were insanity).