'Calling All Fans': Korean Pop Invasion Rallies Americans In LA

Korean pop music, or "K-pop," is gathering popularity in the U.S. There's no better place to see that on display than KCON, an annual K-pop festival in downtown Los Angeles.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

K-pop is here to stay - Korean pop music, that is. And if you think you're not hip to it, let us remind you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in Korean) Gangnam style - Gangnam style...

BLOCK: That is, of course, "Gangnam Style," the viral sensation by the Korean pop star Psy. That song made the biggest splash the U.S. But there's a long list of artists lining up behind Psy, and they have a growing American fan base. NPR's Nathan Rott sent this postcard from KCON, a K-pop festival that just wrapped up in downtown Los Angeles.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: All right. Two quick things to start - get used to background music. It's as omnipresent here at KCON as Hello Kitty backpacks and the sweet smell of Korean barbecue. Second, we need to broaden our definition of the work K-pop by introducing another word - Hallyu. Angela Killoren, the co-organizer of KCON, will explain.

ANGELA KILLOREN: Hallyu is a word that if you're outside of this genre, you have no idea what it means. It technically means Korean wave.

ROTT: I have no idea.

KILLOREN: (Laughing) It technically - but it is kind of code. It says, calling all fans.

ROTT: And she means all fans of everything Korean. That includes your screaming, teary-eyed K-music fans...

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING CROWD)

ROTT: ...Pushing at the gates near the event's red carpet. It includes your K-dancing fans...

(SOUNDBITE OF K-POP SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: All right. Let's all dance.

ROTT: ...Lining up under a tent to learn new dance moves, like a real-life Dance Dance Revolution. And that even includes a tent of your K-video game fans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: They need to make a move right now. (Korean spoken).

(APPLAUSE)

ROTT: So these are some of the best video gamers?

KILLOREN: Yes, in the world. We were also hoping to attract a few more boys to our con. (Laughing).

ROTT: So, yeah, talking demographics, Killoren says that most of the 40,000 KCON-goers are girls. Now, you might expect that most of the fans are Korean.

KILLOREN: Most every single person will think that. In fact, most Koreans think that. And they come and they realize we have - less than 10 percent of our audience is Korean.

ROTT: And Killoren says, that's kind of the point. KCON is a way to give American K-pop fans a taste of something they usually only see on YouTube and to get them caught up in that Hallyu wave. Jan Carook and Rhealyn Sico - they're submerged.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Once you're in that Hallyu wave, you're going to feel like - I feel like I'm a Korean now, honestly.

ROTT: Exactly what the KCON organizers were hoping for. Nathan Rott, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF K-POP SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: (Singing in Korean).

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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