Within the K-Pop American fan base, K-Con has taken on a bit of an elevated status. Having never been to one in the past, I was expecting a lot of fans as well as many places to order merchandise, but little in the way of anything else. My expectations were mostly null. I simply had no idea what to expect.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise to be able to go to KCON NY and see such a fan experience oriented convention. To be sure, the actual convention floor itself was incredibly small but what were packed inside were booths full of things surely to please con goers. There were booths oriented around Korean food, booths dedicated to idol albums and posters, booths for Korean apparel and cosmetics, among others. Particularly fun to go to was the numerous random dance booths peppering the floor with a constant stream of the latest K-Pop hits.
The highlight of the convention itself were the numerous hi touch and fan engagement events. While the convention is like every other convention, absolutely pay to win – diamond and platinum holders were the only ones for example allowed at red carpet. There were numerous chances throughout the floor to win additional prizes for a chance at a range of interactions with K-pop groups including group photos and games. Some stars even hosted their own panels, with the other panels largely catering to the reality that everyone was really here for the various K-pop guests.
Because of that reality, the convention organizers made sure the idols appeared on the floor throughout the weekend. For me, the most memorable moment was when I won a free photo opportunity with G-Idle. Fans ran from one event to the next in order to see their favourite stars. It was hard to not get carried away by the hype around when the next idol group would suddenly appear.
That being said, the con is not without its flaws. New York is undoubtedly smaller, and the venue only emphasized this fact. Without a crowd the actual con floor itself could be toured within an hour at most, with many of the booths not nearly as exciting without guests.
This was highlighted with the merchandise available. Many of the booths catered specifically to people who collected albums or posters, with only one booth selling photo cards (officially, the convention itself only sold clear plastic ones). Any other merch would have to be found through con attendees reselling what they owned which was honestly a bit disappointing as someone who collects non-album and non-photo goods. I also found the lack of fan sign events rather surprising, given how central that has become to K-pop fandom. Hopefully this is addressed in future events.
So would I go again? Perhaps. The convention is oriented around fans and their experience in a way that I have not seen in any other convention, and the ability to access K-pop idols is truly second to none. Perhaps I’ll go to LA next year with the rest of the Selective Hearing crew as a diamond ticket holder.