This weekend, KCON 2016 Presented by Toyota returned to Los Angeles for its fifth year in bringing all things Korean culture to U.S. fans. While the American festival market has become saturated with similar fests and conventions, KCON has been able to not only thrive but expand thanks in part to emphasis on the full Korean culture experience, and not just the talent it books. As the stampede of people raring to get in to Day 1 of KCON—which, mind you, is strictly the convention part—prove, there's loads to take in here.
Check out seven experiences we saw on the first day that you'll only experience at a place like KCON.
1. The Flower Boy Cafe: The stereotypical dreamboat for K-pop fans, the "flower boy" is a term given to guys who are typically manly, but at the same very pretty and veer on the leaner side. Playing off the type, the cafe is in the midst of the convention fun with about a dozen dudes that fulfill that flower boy look, but don't turn it into a caricature. Fans have been hanging out with the guys and, of course, snagging a few selfies.
2. Custom K-Pop Merch: Throughout the con, you'll see fanbase-run booths that are dedicated to different artists. Lots of those booths will have their own customized merchandise ready for purchase, which means you can have some new swag to support your favorite artist that most supporters won't also be rocking.
3. K-Beauty With the Perks: An increasingly large part of KCON has been its emphasis on Korean beauty and at KCON you can not only pick up items from famous Seoul-based retailers like The Face Shop and TonyMoly, but also get legitimate beauty advice from different experts. People like K-beauty expert Charlotte Cho, who cofounded the online K-beauty store Sokoglam.com, was on the scene for tips at the SokoGlam station and gave an onstage makeover for an audience, while places like Nyx and Aritaum were giving out freebies to those stopping by.
4. Physical Albums: Because K-pop fans actually buy physical CDs still. Seriously. It's all thanks to the beautiful packaging and photo jackets filled with loads of pictures. You'll see loads of booths selling physical CDs.
5. K-Food Galore: Bruce Lee Tea? BBQ Bulgogi Fries? Raindrop Cake? Eat all these things and more at the K-Town Night Market, an offering of Korean foods, vendors and whimsical treats that spotlight the food aspect of KCON also expanding in 2016. From traditional Korean eats to trendy dessert items, it's worth going on a food tour on Chick Hearn Ct, which has been shut down to accommodate all the goodies.
6. Face Masks for Fandoms: Most Americans think of face masks as being used strictly by surgeons or overly cautious people at airports, but at KCON they're being sold by the boatloads. Most commonly, attendees are seen rocking face masks to support their favorite artists—like the BTS fan below who's using hers to support member Jungkook. These are being sold at multiple vendors who are selling other accessories like flower crowns and cat ears, along with those who are selling plushies and other stuffed animals.
7. High Fives Reign Supreme: Meeting your favorite artist is always an exciting moment and when it comes to KCON, you get that chance via a high five, or "high touch" as it's called in Korea. If you're lucky enough to score access to a "Fan Engagement"—which are assigned to ticket holders at random when you check-in at KCON—you'll get to wait in line to give a high five to the artist during their fan meet-and-greet. From what we saw, there's very little interaction, but it must be considered more than enough as we've also saw our fair share of fans crying after giving their high fives.
See some shots from girl group I.O.I's fan engagement below:
Stay tuned for coverage all weekend from KCON 2016 LA on Fuse. In the meantime, watch performers from KCON New York share their favorite summer songs below: