Throughout the years KCON LA has featured various aspects of Korean culture, but perhaps none so cut and dry as it did this year. The KCON LA 2019 expo set-up in the Los Angeles Convention Center was simple: K-beauty, food, and music were the big three bullet points on the convention floor each with designated stages that featured special guest and artist appearances throughout its extended program.
KCON LA was a four-day event this year (Aug. 15-18), though Thursday was really only on the schedule for early check-ins so people could skip that step on Friday and jump right into convention shenanigans first thing upon arrival. This was desperately needed as years before people waited in line to check in for hours on end in the heat missing tons of events on Friday. Once we got there and saw less of a crowd in the line, we were thankful for Thursday’s check-in day.
Depending on how deep you are into the K-pop rabbit hole, KCON’s itinerary was either a major hit or a major miss. If you came for Korean dramas or gaming, the latter of which is arguably a much bigger market today than K-pop music itself, you were particularly left out of the fun. Instead, KCON focused most of its effort on artist engagements and YouTube-related features, which have literally taken over a huge portion of the convention.
Choice Music was running giveaways all weekend with a packed booth; Melona had ice cream to hand out, with a massive McDonald’s pop-up shelling out snow cones just across the aisle. If you lined your pockets enough, there were huge sales on sheet masks and Korean beauty products left and right.
The most popular destinations this year were the KCON stages. On Friday, Yas and I made it in time to catch the tail-end of drag queen Soju’s Seoul Train Party, where she and her Good Judy Miles Jai, who is a KCON veteran and local YouTube K-pop celeb, were lip-syncing to girl group anthems like “Dalla Dalla” and “I Am The Best.” You know, standard drag queen affair.
“Star Live Talk,” a brief talk-show style Q&A with idols, was hosted on the KCON Stage as well, and these were by far the most popular. However, considering how the idol guests were staggered throughout the expo, you had to kind of sacrifice one for the other if you really wanted a good spot to see your favorites. The great thing about the KCON stages was that they were all elevated and well lit so no matter where you stood or how far you were from the stage you could at least catch a glimpse of what was going on.
The #KCONBEAUTY and #KCONFOODIE stations were fantastic. If I could do KCON all over again, I would spend a little more time at these two because I thought they were a lot of fun. Each featured pretty lengthy sessions of idol groups playing around with makeup and food. When the members of Ateez were at the Foodie station, I think they were supposed to be making kimbap, but they really just tore through whatever food was in front of them (San was starving, man), and it was fucking hilarious.
N.Flying had to make the best bento lunch boxes they could for their fans. Each member did something different. Hweseung made kimbap, Jaehyun loaded the box with food in the shape of a heart, Hun went overly organized with compartments filled to the brim, and Seunghyub made … Hweseung’s face so you could eat it (lol).
They were all adorable and excited to step on stage to see that there was a giant crowd waiting to see them. When asked what they would make, one said “ohhh, maybe hot potato!?” which is a joke between the group and their fans. When N.Flying released “Hot Potato,” they didn’t have light sticks so they made some out of potatoes for their fans, and potatoes just stuck. Everyone screamed at that and the guys were just so thrilled to see they had enthusiastic fans here.
On the other end of the expo hall was the Beauty station. We watched fromis_9 share their beauty secrets, like how to take a proper selfie and their skincare routines — or in the case of Song Ha Young, the lack thereof since she revealed that all she does is splash water on her face and keeps it moving. Her mates were savage and said she cleans her face like a father, which damn lol.
However, the artist sightings that weren’t as fulfilling were the visits idols made at various sponsored zones on the convention floor. Unless you hadn’t noted times from circling the expo, you had no clue they were happening. Should we talk about Loona?
For whatever reason, KCON thought it would be a smart idea to have Loona members sitting down during an incredibly brief fan-singing at the KCON LA Star Square area, which I’m sure was cool in theory. But because this wasn’t an actual stage, we couldn’t see jack shit. The struggle was so real that desperate people hopped on each other’s shoulders to see maybe the top of Loona’s heads. It was nuts and I’m mad I didn’t get a clear shot of anyone.
Visibility was better when we saw Ateez do a relay dance challenge and when Mamamoo showed up to hand out signed albums at one of the booths at the expo, but not by a lot. If you were willing to camp out a bit to see these artists and not do much of anything else, then it was worth it. Otherwise, they were stressful af.
Thankfully, the M! Countdown concerts more than made up for any idols we missed at the convention. Yas and I only made it to Sunday’s show (for reasons, and we’ll talk about it.