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’KCON Premiere 2022’ opens doors in Seoul to cheers of K-pop fans

Preliminary shows to hit Tokyo and Chicago, ahead of ‘KCON 2022’ in LA in August

Performers gather on the stage during “KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” on Saturday at the CJ ENM Center in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. (CJ ENM)
Performers gather on the stage during “KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” on Saturday at the CJ ENM Center in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. (CJ ENM)
Cheers rose to deafening levels as a fully masked crowd of about 200 K-pop fans invited to “KCON 2022 Premier” packed into the CJ ENM Center in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, on Saturday celebrated the return of fan chants and screaming out loud.

The first edition of the premiere shows leading up to the main event, “KCON 2022,” was significant as it not only marked the return of the annual global K-pop festival, but also the lifting of a noise ban imposed on audiences at concerts, as South Korea recently lifted all major social distancing rules for COVID-19.

Saturday’s show lasted for nearly three hours as seven major K-pop teams went back and forth between performances and panel sessions.

Opening the night was boy band Monsta X, and as the lights dimmed, the act’s fans scattered among the audience showed their presence by turning on their light sticks and shouting out the names of the five members.

“It’s an honor to open the night and I’m reminded of the first time we participated in KCON. We’re happy to be performing in front of our fans and the audience,” Monsta X member Joohoney said during the meet and greet session. Kihyun chimed in, “We’re seeing our fans in person more often recently, and it has reminded us that this is real K-pop that we’ve been missing out on.”

Although brief, the concert momentarily brought together the old and new of K-pop, as the veteran groups, including Highlight and Monsta X, staged immaculate performances, while rookies, NMIXX and TO1, heated up the show with their young energy.

“I feel like I have the whole world to me,” TO1’s Jerome said, after the act gave its first set of performances, adding, “We’ve never had a chance to perform in person since our debut, and we’re so excited and thrilled to be seeing them right now.”

Also among the lineup for first day of “KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” were Brave Girls, Loona and Viviz -- three contestants from Mnet’s survival TV program, “Queendom 2.” Mnet is the nation’s biggest K-pop and music channel operated by CJ ENM. 

Performers gather on the stage during “KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” on Saturday at the CJ ENM Center in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. (CJ ENM)
Performers gather on the stage during “KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” on Saturday at the CJ ENM Center in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. (CJ ENM)

While some 200 audience had packed into the studio, a multitude of K-pop fans around the world tuned in to the livestream remotely, celebrating the start of KCON together.

The night came to an emotional close as all participants, except for Monsta X who had to leave early, gathered onstage for the finale song, “My Universe” by BTS and Coldplay. Rather than performing to the song, the six teams spread out on stage, reaching out to the fans below the platform, shaking hands and talking to them briefly.

“KCON 2022 Premiere in Seoul” will continue Sunday evening, with a different lineup of performers -- Key of SHINee, NiziU, Stayc, The Boyz and “Queendom 2” performers Hyolyn, Kep1er and WJSN.

“KCON 2022 Premiere” is a set of concerts leading up to “KCON 2022.” Following the one in Seoul, the show will take place in Japan on May 14-15 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, before moving to Chicago on May 20 for two days at the Rosemont Theater. The Chicago shows will also be provided through “live viewing” at the LA Convention Center’s Petree Hall, which will also include a video call session with the artists. “KCON 2022” is set to take place in LA in August and in Tokyo in October.

Launched in 2012 amid the increasing global popularity of K-pop and Korean culture content, KCON has been at the forefront of promoting Korean pop culture overseas. The annual fest has been held in person 24 times in locations around the world, drawing some 1.1 million visitors to the on-site events. Online events for “KCON:TACT” that were held five times over the last two years attracted some 22.4 million viewers.

By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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