Top Moments from this Year’s KCON 17 LA and NY

For three years now CJ Entertainment and Toyota have teamed up to bring the ultimate K-pop experience to the east and west coast. This year I had the pleasure of exploring both KCON 17 New York Presented by Toyota and KCON 17 Los Angeles Presented by Toyota (isn’t that a mouthful?) and this is what I got to experience:

1) Full Korean CulturePlex Tour Thanks to CJ

As a K-pop fan one quickly learns a lot of basic elements of Korean culture from different dramas, variety shows, and music videos. But beyond KBBQ lies a whole infrastructure of various Korean tech, beauty, and food products that the casual K-pop fan may not about know from their regular Hallyu consumption. That’s where CJ’s CulturePlex comes in! Armed with a passport, my friend and I embarked down the diverse path of CJ owned businesses to learn about what more the multi-industry company is offering Hallyu fans outside of entertainment.

Our first stops included Tous Les Jour, a popular bakery chain with locations all over the world, and Bibigo, a brand dedicated to bringing fresh Korean flavors to consumers all over the world. There we not only got to try first hand fresh Korean mandoo and kimchi but travel down the timeline of both company’s starts in Korea and their expansion abroad.

From there we toured through beauty companies like SEP Beauty and Olive Young before settling at CJ Logistics to test run their new VR racing game. Let me say, virtual driving isn’t my strong suit…

Afterwards we experienced the trill of viewing a 4DX movie at the CGV Cinema booth and wrote inspiring messages to school girls through the Bright Girls, Brighter Future booth (and even walked away with a super cool WannaOne signature).

Upon completing the CulturePlex passport we not only had a better insight to the many industries CJ contributes too but walked away with some sweet swag.

Convention swag courtesy of DramaFever, Innisfree, and CJ CulturePlex

2) Shopping

Both KCON NY and KCON LA boasted two marketplaces filled with everything a fan needs. Including, but not limited to, CDs and posters from K-poppin’ USA and Fabtown, printed fashion ware from Fanboy Apparel, and pins from Boss Cheorum, it was impossible not to walk out of either KCON decked on in some sweet swag and armed with a photocard of your favorite idol.

3) Fan Art Gallery

This year the East Coast Kpop Outlet – ECKO featured a gallery of fan art from artists all over the world. Fans had access to these beautiful art pieces displayed during both days of the cons. While nothing was available for purchase, each art piece was accompanied by a social media handle and a biography provided by the artist so fans could get in touch! Artistic fans stopping by the ECKO could also contribute to the artwork themselves. (Photos courtesy of ZombieMama)

4) Flirting with Flower Boys

One of my favorite features from KCON LA last year was the flower boy café so I was thrilled when they brought it back this year! I have to admit that this year’s batch of flower boys didn’t seem as playful as last year’s (or maybe they just didn’t have the time to be) but I appreciated getting to know them better through the group games. Even if I thought it lacked a bit, who am I to complain about a cute boy opening up my coffee for me?

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5) Idol Interactions

Even without a concert ticket, fan engagement, or red carpet pass, fans attending both conventions were treated to numerous opportunities to see their favorite idols.

In New York fans got ample opportunities to see their idol crushes KNK and Gfriend at the Toyota and AT&T booths. Fortunately both booths were accessible without paying access to the rest of the KCON 17 NY convention. For those who did purchase a ticket, former U-Kiss member Kevin Woo alongside a number of popular YouTube stars were waiting in panels for highly anticipated meet and greets.

In LA, AT&T users were treated to a special private meet and greet/photo op with idol boy group VIXX (though unfortunately this AT&T user wasn’t able to get tickets in time). On top of that fans got to see the beautiful girls of WJSN at the AT&T convention booth. Some lucky fans even got to take photos together! Am I jealous? Maybe just a little bit.

The only photo I’ll ever get with Wanna One

On Sunday, crowds of fanboys and girls alike crowded around Innisfree and Star Stage for a chance to see the ultra-popular group Wanna One! At one point we saw a crowd small enough for us to get a good glimpse of the boys but little did we know they were still 2 hours away from showing up. I really commend the dedication Wannables have towards their boys! I couldn’t wait but I hope it paid off for everyone who did. And thanks to the Stone Music Entertainment and Jellyfish Entertainment Global Audition booth I was given my own little moment with Wanna One, anyway.

Speaking of Innisfree, while I wasn’t able to meet Wanna One in real life Lee Min Ho and I did have our very own special moment.

We’ll be announcing our engagement soon

6) Red Carpet

Red carpet was definitely my most favorite experience at KCON 17. Nowhere else are fans given the opportunity to see so many different idols all in one place—other than the concerts of course. Not only are the idols stunning, it’s a great chance to get to know each group better through a series of questions asked by the KCON 17 red carpet hosts. Plus of you’re lucky enough you might get a loving shout out or a cute heart pose from your favorites!

Check out our NY photo gallery, courtesy of Katrina Lobaton:

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Check out our LA photo gallery:

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7) Four Jaw-Dropping Nights of Concerts

The crowning glory moment for all KCON 17 attendees is, of course, the concert. Both New York and Los Angeles boasted an impressive mix of new and old acts ready to shine in each city. As an older fan I appreciate the opportunity to see long time K-pop strengths like Highlight (formerly known as Beast) and CNBLUE headline the KCON 17 NY shows. Young groups like KNK, SF9, Up10tion, and NCT127 all managed to dominate the stage despite only have a year or so of experience under their belts. Even without a large music repertoire these groups showed off not only their singing and dancing prowess but their adorable variety skills, filling up time with playful interactions between each other and with their fans. And although outnumbered compared to their male counterparts, girl groups Gfriend and Twice held their own on the Newark stage.

My personal favorite moment (aside from seeing Highlight live for the first time) was Zion T.’s stage. A veteran performer and stunning soloist, Zion T. brought the entire arena to life with his hit songs “Eat,” “Yanghwa Brdg” and “Your Song.” Due to the previous year’s response to hip hop icons Dynamic Duo I had worried that Zion T.’s stage would be lost on the crowd. I’m grateful that KCON 17 NY fans proved me wrong.

The west coast KCON also saw an array of recently debuted acts like KARD and Wanna One (both of whom have formally debuted within the last month) alongside veteran K-pop acts like Super Junior D&E and first generation idol Kim Tae Woo. WJSN and Girls’ Day dominated their stage with cute and sexy performances, respectively. SF9 carried over their playfulness from the East Coast KCON while VIXX’s dark and alluring performance has the audience speechless (well, minus some screaming). The only missed opportunity was not having Super Junior D&E join for SP9’s special stage of the Super Junior hit “Sorry Sorry!” To top off the first night rising idol group Seventeen stopped off in the midst of their Diamond Edge tour to perform a selection of fan favorites as well as some sweet unit performances.

Day two, however, was unrivaled by the number of acts to step onto the Staples stage. In addition to the aforementioned KARD, Wanna One, and Kim Tae Woo, Saturday night also saw fantastic performances from Oh My Girl, Astro, soloist Heize, and NCT127 with a headlining showstopper from GOT7. Between sweet bubble gum pop thanks to Oh My Girl and Astro, soulful ballads from Heize and Kim Tae Woo, and aggressive hip hop style tracks from NCT127 and GOT7, KCON 17 LA day 2 was a jarring mix of musical styles. Fans had no problem being thrown between music genres, though, and lived up the moment of seeing their favorite idols live.

8) Fulfilling my SM Artist Dreams

A final favorite moment was thanks to none other than head KCON 17 sponsor Toyota. For as long as I’ve been a K-pop fan I’ve wanted nothing more than to experience the infamous 360 camera and KCON 17 LA gave me my chance! I’m already saving up for next year just to have a chance at this again. SHINee eat your heart out, I’ll be your 6th member soon enough. 😉