(Photo : Karen May Cunanan )
For American fans of Korean culture-everything spanning from K-Pop to Korean skincare to even Korea’s avid gaming scene-KCON USA is the highlight of the year. With so many opportunities to win great prizes and meet and interact with your favorite idols, it might even be the highlight of a lifetime to fans of the growing Hallyu movement!
KCON 2017 NY Presented by Toyota kicked off its third consecutive year on Friday, Jun. 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The day started off strong with a special appearance by SF9 at the convention stage, where members of the FNC rookie group greeted the early-bird fans.
Between panels on everything from Korean food to makeup, workshops where you could learn your favorite KPop dances, and fun performances at the convention stage, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff there was to do at KCON. The KCON app made it easy for attendees to get push notifications on special guest appearances and have the day’s schedule at a glance.
Most of KCON’s lineup made special appearances before they took the stage later that day. SF9’s Youngbin, Rowoon, and Zuho made an appearance at the Innisfree booth before their fan engagement, with lucky fans even winning a photo with them (I was one of them! It was amazing!). The afternoon saw KNK stopping by the Toyota booth and GFriend stopping by the ATT booth to greet fans. Fans of Kevin Woo were fed well, with his MeetGreet and him hosting fan engagements and Highlight’s convention stage appearance.
These idol appearances were merely part of KCON’s impressive programming. Seonkyoung Longest’s panel Learn How to Make Bingsoo with Seonkyoung Longest! offered sweet, icy, condensed-milk-covered relief from the day’s heat-but not as sweet as the deals one could find on K-Pop merch and fan-made art alike in KCON’s marketplace. 1million Dance Studio’s convention stage performance featured audience members dancing to the studio’s popular dances alongside the original choreographers, ending with a entertaining dance battle filled with a (albeit unsurprisingly) large amount of twerking and dabbing from the audience volunteers.
KCON’s convention was just the icing on the cake of KCON’s exciting concert lineup. Rookie group KNK opened the M! Countdown stage with their most recent comeback “Sun.Moon.Star”, stunning the crowds with their powerful vocals and striking choreography. With “Knock” and “Day N Night”, KNK’s performance definitely made some new Tinkerbells among the concert attendees.
Special MCs GFriend’s SinB and SF9’s Chani introduced the next performance: Highlight’s Dongwoon and GFriend’s Yuju’s take on “Beauty and the Beast”. Yuju’s high, clear tones matched well with Dongwoon’s deeper voice, creating a beautiful homage to the classic love song. The ballad contrasted greatly with the next artist to take the stage: boygroup SF9 switched up the atmosphere with “Easy Love”. The song showcased their powerful main vocalists, versatile rappers, and sharp, intricate choreography, which then led into KCON’s fun-filled “Fortune Wheel” interlude. The group was granted the task to “propose” to an audience member named Paige. Main vocal Inseong’s subsequent “first page, second page, third page” pun was met with much laughter from the audience and loving rage from other members. The segment allowed SF9’s members to show off their personality and charms: SF9’s maknae, or youngest member, Chani “proposed” by showing off his cuteness with “Noona-ya” aegyo, Rowoon proposed with a heart-fluttering serenade of Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are”, and Dawon showed off his humor with a mixture of his fellow member’s methods of winning Paige’s heart. The group transitioned smoothly back into their performance with their debut song “Fanfare” and ended their set with “Roar”.
Girl group GFriend then took the stage, performing “Fingertip”, “Navillera”, “Me Gustas Tu”, and “Rough”. Although their lead dancer Yerin was absent filming for variety show “Law of the Jungle”, the other five members held up the group’s reputation for strong vocals and even stronger dancing skills with ease.
Following a short quiz on K-Pop knowledge hosted by SF9’s Inseong and Rowoon, Zion.T showcased his unique vocals and musical prowess with performances of “Complex”, “The Song”, “Eat”, and, of course, “Yanghwa BRDG”.
SF9 then returned to the stage with a boy group medley of EXO’s “Call Me Baby” and BTS’ “Boy in Luv”, once again showcasing their excellent dancing skills and certainly gaining Fantasies in the process.
The first night of KCON NY ended with Highlight, eight year veterans formerly known as Beast. Their performances of “Plz Don’t Be Sad” and “Good Luck” let Highlight’s powerful vocals and confidence shine, and their 2012 single “Beautiful Night” hyped up the crowd with electronic beats and a wave of nostalgia. It was definitely a highlight of the entire concert.
As KCON’s first day line-up returned to the stage to say goodbye to audience members one final time, I said goodbye to a great first day of KCON NY-and hello to more excitement for the next day to come.