KCON returned in spectacular fashion to Los Angeles for the 11th year last weekend at the LA Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena. Presented by a new sponsor, Samsung Galaxy, the extravagant festival invited some of K-Pop’s hottest acts and exciting new rookies, including ATEEZ, CRAVITY, EVERGLOW, (G)I-DLE, INI, ITZY, INI, JO1, Kep1er, Lapillus, NMIXX, RAIN, SHOWNU x HYUNGWON (MONSTA X), Stray Kids, TAEMIN, TAEYONG, THE BOYZ, WayV, XG, xikers, and ZEROBASEONE.
KCON LA 2023, produced by CJ Entertainment, wrapped up with a whopping 140,000 fans in attendance over the rainy weekend and 5.9 million viewers across 176 regions for the event’s live stream. This marked the highest attendance number KCON has ever had, followed by KCON JAPAN 2023 with 123,000 fans in attendance earlier this year. With these numbers, KCON showed they are North America’s main representative K-culture festival.
KCON began in 2012 in Irvine with only 10,000 fans and, since then, has exploded exponentially over the years as K-Pop continues to be a force in the U.S. music industry. The event showcased all facets of K-culture, including beauty, lifestyle, music, and dramas. Fans got fun freebies like fans and photo card holders at Pocamarket, tote bags at Samsung Galaxy, and free fries and a mini McFlurry at the McDonald’s booths, respectively. In some cases, they received full-sized bottles of toner and lip liners from beauty booths like Korea’s representative beauty company, Olive Young, to try throughout the weekend.
The gargantuan and multi-faceted festival greeted KCONers (KCON attendees’ fandom name) with 278 convention floor booths and over 150 convention programs, which included the KCON STAGE, PANEL&WORKSHOP, Dance All Day, KCON SQUARE, Star Square, and more.
On Friday, August 18, KCON LA 2023 kicked off with a slew of programs that kept fans on their toes. It started slowly, with fans waiting in the scorching and humid heat. In some cases, fans missed appearances, including WayV and IVE Meet & Greets. On Friday afternoon, Southern California received a hurricane alert concerning KCONers. But they were happily surprised when it was announced that the convention and show would continue despite the tropical storm, providing a covered entrance and allowing fans to bring their umbrellas.
The excitement was palpable as fans entered. Like the day before, several idol groups were scheduled to wander the floor and greet their fans up close throughout the day – some even made surprise visits. Screams and cheers trailed after wandering groups, alerting fans who surged towards their idols, generating much foot traffic. Social media sites like Twitter and TikTok were flooded with fancams of the idols at booths and interacting with fans, including one of ATEEZ’s Hongjoong taking someone’s LightTINY (ATEEZ’s lightstick) adorned with Shrek’s green ears and waving it around at the McDonald’s booth.
In another corner of the convention floor, KCON STAGE hosted a few programs, including “SHOWCASE: NICE TO MEET YOU” and “Jojo Live” with iHeartRadio KIIS FM’s host, Jojo Wright, garnering hundreds of people. There, he interviewed acts such as ATEEZ, ITZY, and XG before the concert later in the day.
Fans had a chance to fall in love with up-and-coming artists like 8TURN, RIIZE, LIMELIGHT, XG, JUST B, CRAXY, and VERIVERY with THE SHOWCASE: NICE TO MEET YOU. Sunday’s lineup drew many fans that spilled into the K-CONVENTION part of the convention floor, leaving little room for fans to visit the other booths. Monster rookie group XG generated a gigantic crowd, showing their global appeal. As the group introduced themselves with charm and charisma, Alphaz (XG’s fandom name) grew even more infatuated with the girls, screaming for the group’s attention and sending half-hand hearts their way in attempts to complete it with a member. Member Harvey sang parts of Doja Cat’s “Attention” during a Q&A consisting of all fan questions written earlier in the day, and called a male fan cute, with the members teasing Harvey for being a flirt. The group also performed their songs and teased their upcoming first album, including a short and sweet cover of Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair,” “Shooting Star,” “GIRL GVNG,” “LEFT RIGHT,” and their newest release, “TGIF.”
“Jojo Live” at the KCON Stage wasn’t the only thing KIIS FM did. For the first time, they collaborated with KCON to bring K-POP VILLAGE to the Gilbert Lindsay Plaza on Saturday, ahead of the tropical storm. Open to the general public, the village included a Ferris wheel and multiple food vendors, including It’s Boba Time, which passed out boba for parched attendees. Many fans who couldn’t attend the convention queued for the village in the early morning to catch a glimpse of acts like ATEEZ, xikers, Kep1er, and XG.
The Village also had a small stage in which performances and interviews by KIIS FM host Jojo Wright. The first event was a quick interview with ATEEZ. As ATINYs (ATEEZ’s fandom name) cheered and barked (which was encouraged by members San and Mingi), the members displayed their charm and handsome looks in sleek black business-casual attire as they looked on and interacted with a few fans at the front of the stage.
The village also hosted performances from DJs NOTD, alt-pop and TikTok singer Benson Boone, and former Trainee A member and now soloist Leo. Kpopconcerts.com caught him backstage for a quick photo and interview, and Leo teased his new music, including a couple of singles and a potential album later in the year. DJ Triple X masterfully spun K-Pop hit songs between sets, causing fans to cheer and dance along to the remixes.
On the opposite side of KCON STAGE was the Dance All Day stage, in which participants practiced songs for the chance to be a part of the DREAM STAGE portion of the concert, performing a song with IVE, ZEROBASEONE, and ITZY. It also had Shall We K-Pop Dance? in which Kep1er, EVERGLOW, 8TURN, and NMIXX stopped to dance with their fans, covering a range of songs.
CJ Entertainment also had a booth called CJ Live Studio, where artists such as Kevin Woo and CRAXY appeared. Fans stood outside of the booth in an attempt to catch a glimpse of these acts before they went into the makeshift studio with pink reflective glass.
Away from the bustling convention floor were the panels in the workshops upstairs. On Saturday, before the noon panel, security and other KCON staff promptly alerted Zeroses (ZEROBASEONE’s fandom name) that the event with ZEROBASEONE was at capacity. According to the staff member, there were nearly 400 fans eagerly waiting in the queue room since before the convention opened for the immensely popular rookie group.
Other panels had special group appearances, such as EVERGLOW at Sunday’s “Find the Hidden KCONers” panel, in which they played a fun game in which they spotted Forevers (EVERGLOW’s fandom name) with items such as KCON merchandise, ballcaps, and the like. The members themselves picked the winners who won an interaction with them. 8TURN appeared for the makeup panel with influencer Jooshica, who did an eye makeup tutorial to inspire KCONers. The band also answered questions about their makeup and skincare routines and recommendations.
Another fun panel highlight was Sunday’s Trailblazers of K-Pop panel with former UKISS’ Kevin Woo and former Miss A’s Min. There, they discussed their involvement in the Tony-nominated Broadway show “K-POP” and how times have changed for the K-Pop industry since they started. Both fans of the 2nd generation groups and curious onlookers alike gathered for the insightful, funny, and enlightening panel.
Despite the tumultuous Southern California weather that fluctuated between smothering heat and pouring rain, KCON was still a rousing feat. The festival continues to be the leader of K-culture festivals worldwide, with its flagship event being one of the most significant events of SoCal, rivaling San Diego’s Comic-Con this year. Here’s to the festival growing better than ever. Until next year, KCON!