* This post is written by Elizabeth Shim and Wendi Wheeler for the Korean Cultural Service in New York.
Around 3pm on an early October Sunday afternoon in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, a crowd had gathered for a day of festivities that brought Korean flavors, sights and sounds to a state park. There was food in celebration of Chuseok, or Korean harvest, fun, and giveaways at an eclectic range of booths, but the real draw was centered around a gigantic stage in the middle of the grassy expanse, a showcase for a free K-pop concert featuring some of Korean pop music’s biggest names: TVXQ,SHINee, B2ST, Sistar, and 2PM.
“We love K-pop!” squealed the gaggle of fans who began to form a long, winding line across the circular field. When asked why, they answered with the resounding obvious. “Because it offers something American pop music doesn’t,” was a frequent response. Most loved that “It is fun, and you can follow the dances on YouTube,” and “each group is unique, and has something different to offer.”
The fans were young, many in their teens or early college age, and hailed from all across the country. They drove in from Massachusetts, flew in from Florida, and invested a great deal of time prior to the concert, patiently waiting in lines for free tickets, tweeting and blogging about the concert, and were generally full of enthusiasm of K-pop’s imminent arrival to America. One of the diehard K-pop fans, Wendi Wheeler of Orlando, Florida, fulfilled one of her longtime dreams to see her idols up close, and had nothing but effusive praise for the concert, and wrote the Korean Cultural Service the following account of her concert experience:
The star-studded concert began late, but that didn’t seem to upset the eager fans at all, especially once K-pop sensation boyband SHINee stepped onstage and performed two of their biggest hits “Lucifer” and “Ring Ding Dong.” What I loved about this show was the variety in the performers on the setlist. There was something for everyone! Jazz and R&B diva Insooni wowed the crowd with her dynamic 3-song set, including a performance of “Goose Dream” under a clear, night sky and stunningly silver moon. Soprano Hong Hye Kyung and baritone Ryeo Hyun Gu contributed a touch of opera class to the mix, traditional Korean singer Jang Sa Ik blew everyone away with his powerhouse vocals, and SHINee, 2PM, B2ST, Sistar, 4Minute and TVXQ ushered in the youthful edge and talent worthy of world-stage recognition. It was truly an unforgettable night for all who were in attendance!