The two-day K-pop concerts last weekend in New York, hosted by CJ E&M, proved Korean music is continuing to thrive in the US.
The 2018 KCON, at which beauty, food and lifestyle events were also held on the sidelines, attracted 53,000 fans to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey – almost 10,000 more than went to last year’s event.
The Prudential Center was crowded with fans from the US, Canada and Mexico, with many enthusiastic fans having travelled to New York to see their favourite K-pop acts in person.
Seven out of 10 fans were 24 or younger, confirming that K-pop is popular among Generation Z – the generation born roughly between 1995 and 2009, following on from millennials.
Gen Z has had access to the internet their entire lives, and technology and social media blend seamlessly with their everyday experience.
According to Gen Z Music Consumption & Spending Report, released in March this year by digital media company Sweety High, post-millennials are open-minded when it comes to music genres. Their favourite genre is pop, but they also embrace a diverse mix of music genres, with nearly 97 per cent of them saying they listen to five different genres regularly.
The 2018 KCON New York illustrated that there have been significant demographic shifts among fans. In the early years, about 80 to 90 per cent of the audience were ethnically Korean. But photos taken over the weekend at Prudential Center would seem to confirm that many K-pop fans today are non-Asians.
KCON New York seemed to have benefited from the popularity of superstar K-pop boyband BTS. The K-lifestyle show was held about a month after the group topped the Billboard 200 albums chart with “Love Yourself: Tear”, which was the first K-pop album to take the number 1 spot. Prior to this, the seven-member boyband had won the Billboard Top Social Artist Award for the second year in a row.
The BTS saga seems to have raised the profile of K-pop among North American fans.
According to CJ E&M, KCON has emerged as a popular cultural platform among post-millennials.
The two-day event featured 10 K-pop acts, including Super Junior and five-member girl band EXID. North American fans explored Korean beauty products and tried Korean food as several cultural events were held on the sidelines of the K-pop concert.
KCON has been held in major US cities 10 times since its first edition was held seven years ago. A total of 400,000 fans have attended these events.
CJ E&M will host another bigger K-pop multiday concert in Los Angeles from August 10 to 12.
This article was originally written by Kang Hyun-kyung for The Korea Times.