The Cult of K-Pop

When I got off the subway at the Dongdaemun History and Culture Museum stop and walked out of the exit and into the open air, I couldn’t believe my surroundings.  Ultra-modern, cutting-edge, clean lined architecture loomed over me.  This was the Dongdaemun Design Park.  Several colourful pianos played away in the centre and a few people milled around but it was an extremely big, quiet, empty space.

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The DDP is a blend of traditional buildings, relics and cutting-edge modern multicultural facilities including Seoul Fortress, the Igansumun Water Gate (which was a floodgate channeling water from Namsan Mountain to Cheonggyecheon Stream and Seoul Fortress), Dongdaemun History Hall, the Dongdaemun Excavation Site, Dongdaemun Sports Memorial Hall, Event Hall, and a Design Gallery.

The Fortress and water gate were uncovered during excavations for the DEP and remain a focus of the park.

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I walked around the surrounding streets taking it all in, the mix of old and new struggling to compete for space.

I’m so excited because today I’m going to see BigBang in concert.  Well, kind of.  K-Live can be found on the 9th floor of the Lotte Fitln building just behind the design park and what they do inside is quite cutting edge.  You see the concert I’m about to see is actually a holographic concert.  That’s right – a concert of holograms.  Well how does that work you might ask.  Like this – the bands do their performances live in front of a green screen and the production team then uses CGI (computer generated images) to make them look 3D and voila!

Hallyu is the word for the Korean wave and incudes not only the pop music, but the TV dramas and movies and it is big business here in South Korea.  The government pours billions of dollars into the creation and development of the industry in  its quest to sell Hallyu to the world.  These bands go under long traineeships with management companies, working long and hard hours in the hope to make it big and BigBang is K-Pop’s shining light.  Consisting of five members, leader G-Dragon (who has been fast gaining popular support with industry giants as Missy Elliott, Pharrell and Karl Lagerfield for his on-trendness and unique style), T.O.P (master rapper and he of the deep voice), Taeyung, Daesung and Seungri, BigBang have now embarked on two world tours, the most recent one which is still continuing.  They even made it to the US and received great acclaim, something rare for a make-up wearing, flashy matching outfit, synchronised dancing boyband and sold out their Australian shows in Melbourne and Sydney in record time.  You’ve got to admit that even though they mainly sing in Korean, their songs are damn catchy!

To be honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I turned up to watch Psy, 2NE and BigBang, masses of schoolkids wasn’t one of them, but that’s what I was surrounded by.  What was I doing here?  I thought to myself, but then one of the ushers came up to me to say this was an extended show today and would I mind if I also watched G-Dragon?  Are you kidding me?  My absolute favourite K-Pop star and leader of BigBang?  No, I don’t mind and suddenly I didn’t mind the hundreds of children either.

Waiting for the show to start I milled around looking at the merchandise shop, which sadly didn’t have anything that great in it as I was hoping to pick up some souvenirs for my niece Lola (also a K-Pop fan and BigBang lover) and maybe also me.  The only thing I spied was a boxed DVD set of a recent concert, but for 65,000 won (around $80 AUD), I wasn’t willing to chance it working on my DVD player back home.  That aside, you can jump into a photobooth and have your photo taken with your favourite star – there are a collection of pre-photographed shots of your band, you choose which one you like, stand back against the curtain of the booth and then try and act cool while somehow posing how you think the photo will turn out.  Here’s my photo…

BigBang and ME

Then the doors opened.  As you walk in, they take head shot photos of everyone which later get superimposed up on the screens – from this they play games and choose prize winners.  Then the concert starts and I realise I have forgotten to bring my glasses.  Psy hits the stage and I have to say that even without my glasses it looks pretty good.  He does two songs, then 2NE takes the stage for one, before the rest of the show is completed by BigBang and then G-Dragon.  At times I feel they use too many special effects in the show and I’m really not sure this will take off in the world, but when in Rome….

Once outside and back in wifi range, I do some googling and discover that just one stop away in Myeongdong, there are some shops in the subway selling K-Pop merchandise.  Of course the logical thing to do is jump on the subway and check it out.  The shops were easy to find and filled with stickers, posters, calendars, DVDs, CDs, pens, notepads – most things K-Pop.  And funny enough there was the DVD box set I had been looking at back at K-Live for just 35,000 won – much more worth the risk at half the price.  I stocked up and left the subway happy.

It’ll be sweet K-pop flavoured dreams tonight.

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