Last month I enjoyed one of the most surprising and unexpectedly fun experiences in my life as I was somehow convinced by my girls to drive down to KCONLA! It was the 7th KCON held in Los Angeles, the first being in 2012 at a much smaller venue than the LA Convention Center. This is the site of the giant E3 convention my husband attends every year, so I was pretty excited to check it all out. Well let me backtrack a bit… I wasn’t entirely excited, but that’s a story in itself.
My older daughter sort of swindled me into KCON. As much as I love K-pop, and love enjoying K-pop with my girls, I don’t want to spoil them and just take them to every single K concert that comes within driveable range of us. I don’t think it serves kids well to get everything they want in life, and sometimes you just have to say, “No” so they understand how to deal with a little disappointment in life. They’d already allotted their birthday presents to GOT7 and their Christmas presents to BTS. I swore we wouldn’t dip into 2019 celebrations, as there will be a whole new slate of concerts to see next year too. No, the line had to be drawn somewhere. But here’s the mistake I made: my daughter asked if she could go to KCON if she paid for every penny of it on her own. Hmmm, my kid wants to do something that will require hard work and planning? YES!! I naively offered up my credit card to secure her purchase, telling her she owed me the cash at least two weeks before the con so I could sell the tickets if she didn’t come through. I didn’t look over her shoulder, and honestly didn’t give much more thought to the transaction at all.
Little did I know that she’d not only purchased a $160 ticket to the convention (!!!!), but she purchased two $175 tickets to one of the two KCON concerts as well. It started to sink in that I was enabling an obsession. She was going to spend every dollar of her savings on this, leaving her with literally cents left in her bank account, and this is just to buy the tickets. This leaves her with nothing for the event itself, no food money, no Uber money… And was I going to drive her to this?? No, she says, she can “find some mutuals on Twitter to ride down with” and they’d even discussed “sharing an AirBnB” together. Wait, what!?! She’s not even 17 yet! Ugh, why didn’t I ask any of these questions before I handed over my credit card?!? I felt like an idiot, I was blinded by the light in her face, she was so excited to do this for herself, and I didn’t question that it might be a much bigger stretch than she, or I, could handle. I was on the fence about this activity for weeks, fluctuating between insisting she sell all three tickets and suck up her disappointment, to realizing that this might be something fun for the whole family to do together, I mean, after all, we’d become a “K-pop family” so why not all of us attend KCON? I swayed daily, even hourly, between these two approaches. And then a particular idol group was announced as appearing at KCON, and this announcement swung everything definitively over to the side of attending the convention, no matter what.
Imfact. Imfact is a group that I’ve been stanning since April 2018, April 16th to be exact. That was the day that their video for “The Light” dropped, and I fell into a deep deep Imfact rabbit hole. “December! There’s a video you HAVE to see, seriously, you’re going to LOVE it.” I know her taste pretty well, and after a day of listens, she was saying crazy things like, “Mom, I think I might like this more than JBJ ‘My Flower!’” Hmmmmm. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up “My Flower” as my song of the year, but yes, I agreed that “The Light” is soooooo good! And we sort of just stanned Imfact immediately, their charm is that they’re so honest and fun and cute and chaotic. They seem to have an entertainment company that’s more relaxed in terms of management, and this leads to a great deal of authenticity, which isn’t particularly easy to find in K-pop. Most groups are scripted down to the socks they wear and coughs they muffle. But Imfact gives off such a special IDGAF vibe, and we love it. So finding out they were coming to KCON was like hearing that gold had been discovered in my backyard. This isn’t a group that we thought we’d EVER get to see outside Korea. In fact, we’d talked about the fact that one purpose to visit Korea someday would be so we might get a chance to see Imfact, maybe busking by the Han river, or appearing at a local festival. We never imagined that Star Empire might send Imfact to the U.S.!!! So yes, long story short: We were GOING to KCON!
KCON is a total scene right from the registration get go. We arrived for early check-in on Thursday, August 9th, having read that the crowds are pretty big on Friday morning. With our stomachs rumbling for Bun Shop baos, all we wanted to do was get our wristbands and get over to Ktown for dinner. But as you read earlier, Cem had sprung bigtime for that pricey tier ticket, and she was not super happy with her VIP haul. She got a Golden Child Hi-Touch, a Pentagon Audience, a Momoland Audience, and a Saturday Red Carpet. I didn’t bring this kid 500 miles to have her groan that she spent $160 for nothing. Of course I patiently waited outside the Convention Center with her as she attempted to trade and/or sell/buy her way to a happier con. Which she did! No offense to the perks she received originally, but she was much happier with the Nu’est Audience and Sunday Red Carpet she ended up with. She also made enough money with her sales that she could spend $65 on KCON merch, which gave her an automatic entry to the Imfact Star Square appearance on Sunday. More on that later.
My younger daughter Shayla and I had regular tickets, which honestly are all you need to have to enjoy an amazing time at KCON. I personally didn’t want any of the top tier perks, and Shayla was spending her own money on the ticket using her allowance, so she didn’t want to spend money on perks either. That’s not to say she didn’t want perks, of course. Oh, she wanted them. She just didn’t want to spend her money on them. The great thing about KCON is that there are lots of opportunities to get up close to idols and celebrities that don’t involve buying pricey tickets. Most of the groups appearing on the concert bills were brought into the convention floor at some point, whether it was to the KCON stage, the Star Square, the Toyota booth or LG booth or other spots around the con. If we hadn’t gotten concert tickets, we’d have still gotten to see some incredible acts on stage. We saw IN2IT on the KCON stage on Friday, and Cem even got an unexpected hi-touch with two of the members when they appeared at the Star Square. Shayla got to meet her ult YouTuber, TerryTV and take a selfie with him. On Saturday we got to see Imfact on the KCON stage, and I even sucked up my pride to claim a spot at the “barrier,” which paid off when I got a smile from Jeup, two smiles actually! He was probably amused seeing someone my age at the show, as I’ve heard that older people generally aren’t into attending K-pop concerts in South Korea.
As mentioned earlier, Cem had earned her way to an Imfact Meet & Greet by purchasing $65 in KCON merch. Shayla was having a bit of non-buyers’ remorse for not splurging similarly. However, she ended up with a ticket to the Imfact M&G for free by completing a KCON challenge. All she had to do was tweet four different photos of herself at the KCONworld booth, and voila – perk earned! YAY!! I was so happy both girls would get to meet Imfact. They were told to line up at 2:10pm at the Star Square on Sunday for the chance to get an autograph from each member. I took my spot against the Star Square barrier, as I had to videotape the girls meeting their idols. I saw, much to my happy surprise, that the members were not just autographing, but talking and smiling and engaging with fans, so I was really excited to see the girls go through. The members were beyond gracious to all the fans and my girls got smiles and compliments and autographs and memories. They even got a hi-touch with the members when they exited, and Ungjae took Cem’s phone and snapped a selfie with her!!
All of this isn’t even everything great about KCON! We bought beauty products, jewelry, posters, and I took about three dance classes, along with watching lots of other dancing at the various cover dance floors. KCON is just FUN. And welcoming and friendly and body positive. I’m so glad I took the girls. And thanks to my hubby, I was even able to score a ticket to the Sunday concert from a generous and sweet Soompi employee (thank you Clara!). The Sunday concert started with a special-ticketed Red Carpet event that Cem attended, and lo and behold, when Imfact crossed the Red Carpet, they read one fan letter from among the many letters that had been submitted to their KCON mailbox. One letter. And guess whose letter it was? Cem texted me the all-caps message that it was her letter that was read, and she was beaming. I love that you can see in that video the moment when Taeho’s heart bursts when he hears Cem’s words, “Imfact is the Light of my life.” Awwwwww. I love Taeho!
The Sunday concert was top tier entertainment, and a great way to cap off the convention. Our hosts for the evening were Seventeen’s Joshua and Vernon, and each act performed about two songs. I know Seventeen performed a few more than that. And most importantly for us, Imfact debuted their new song!!!!! Oh my goodness, it was so exciting, not just to hear the new song for the first time, but to hear Ungjae start it off with his singing voice!!!!!! I was filming with my phone, so I had to bite my lip not to say “Awwwwwwwww, Ungjae is siiiinnggiiinngg!” out loud. The new song “Na Na Na” was beautiful. Other highlights of the concert for me were Nu’est doing “Where You At,” Chungha doing “Love U” and Seventeen ending the evening with a mega-high-energy “Very Nice.”
I’d say the the concert was absolutely perfect if it weren’t for one thing: the people immediately around me. Thank goodness this wasn’t my first K-pop concert, because if it were, I probably would have left thinking that K-pop fans are major sticks in the mud. But having been to Eric Nam and GOT7 already, I knew that K-pop fans were the friendliest, most fun people in the concert world. Too bad no one around me at the KCON show could prove that. Seated to my left was a couple that sat silently and expressionless the entire show, only occasionally clapping politely. To my right was a woman and her daughter who were “only here for Roy Kim” and didn’t pay attention to anyone else. In front of me was a row of sad empty seats and behind me was a father that stared at his phone all night and his son that looked like he wished he had a phone to stare at all night. Why would all of these people pay to be so miserable for 3 hours? Maybe I was sitting in a section where *everyone* had free seats, that’s the only explanation I can come up with. It didn’t matter though, I ignored all of them so I could enjoy myself, which I definitely did. By the time Seventeen was admonishing the crowd to get up and dance, I couldn’t worry that my butt was gonna be in the faces of the boring pair behind me, I had to jump up and have fun anyway! And I did have SO much fun!!! Attending KCON ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I absolutely can’t wait to do it all again next year!!!