The Alleycon comic-con in Gwangju kicked off to such success last year that organizers have found an even bigger venue for the second edition of the event, to be held in September.
This year, the convention will be moved to Kwangju Women’s University. Alleycon’s organizing team ― which calls itself the Grey Council, after a group of wizards in Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files series” ― has been working for several months to bring the Gwangju community a weekend of artistic enrichment.
“There will be board games and RPGs for the tabletop gamers, consoles for the video gamers, a costume contest for the cosplayers, and author and artist Q&A panels,” event director Jordan VanHartingsveldt said. “There will be something for everyone.”
The convention’s name was inspired by that of the restaurant where last year’s convention was held: local expat haunt The First Alleyway.
But after people were turned away when the restaurant hit maximum capacity, it became clear that a larger venue would be necessary to accommodate a larger group of comic enthusiasts and curious onlookers.
VanHartingsveldt says the objective behind Alleycon is to bring the classic Western-style comic-con to Korea.
According to VanHartingsveldt, the primary differences between a Korean comic-con and Alleycon lie in the language and scope of the festivities.
While the complete schedule for Alleycon is still in the works, several artists have been confirmed for the Skype panel including Robin Hobb, Myke Cole, John Hemry and N.K. Jemisin, authors of the "Rain Wild Chronicles," “Shadow Ops,” “Lost Fleet” and “Inheritance” series, respectively.
Gwangju resident Lan Kim, who enjoyed getting her portrait drawn by an illustrator at Alleycon 2013, plans to return this year.
“It is not easy to experience this kind of event, especially in Gwangju, so I enjoyed it,” Kim said.
Monika Lee, a law enforcement officer, was invited to the event last year and says she was impressed by what she saw.
“It was fun meeting foreigners and seeing them dressed in their special costumes,” Lee said, referring to the convention’s costume contest.
Given the anticipated influx of Alleycon attendees from outside the Gwangju area, the convention organizers have arranged to hold an icebreaker at The First Alleyway on Sept. 26, starting at 7 p.m.
Festivities will end with a private movie screening at Chungjangno Lotte Cinema at 10 p.m. on Sept. 27.
Michael Broussard cosplays as a “post-apocalyptic maniac” at Alleycon 2013. (Relja Kojic)
Organizers hope that Alleycon will bring the community together and give expats a sense of belonging in a place they may not yet feel comfortable calling home. He recalled the experience of a participant last year who had only been in Korea for a month.
“Alleycon helped him find a group of friends who shared his interests,” he said.
“Although we ourselves consider Korea home, we know other expats may not share the feeling and we hope an event like Alleycon 2014 will give them at least a couple days without homesickness.”
Registration for the event runs from Aug. 15-31. Regular day passes for the event will cost 20,000 won. Passes that include an Alleycon T-shirt or limited edition Alleycon poster drawn by “Dear Korea” comic artist and Gwangju resident Jen Lee will cost 30,000 won.
The entry fee will go toward funding Alleycon 2015 and charitable organizations.
These charities include the Michael Simning Ndwara Scholarship Fund, which funds the education of girls in Kenya and is named after the former owner of The First Alleyway, who passed away this year.
Gwangju’s annual Adopt-a-Child for Christmas drive, which purchases gifts for orphans within the city, will also be supported.
“It’s events like this, where we all come together to plan things and have fun, that make our foreigner community so strong and cohesive,” said Nancy Harcar, Alleycon’s marketing director, who teaches English at Chosun University Girls’ Middle School.
“We all get to know one another, experience fun things and strengthen the community bond together.”
For more information, search for “Alleycon 2014” on Facebook.
By Dina Perez, Intern reporter (email@example.com