For Kenta Takada and Kim Sang-gyun of the K-pop duo JBJ95, their performance at the K-Content Expo in Buena Park last weekend marked their first visit to the U.S.
Sang-gyun wanted to go to Santa Monica — “because I played ‘Grand Theft Auto V,’ which is based around there” — and the two of them met Buena Park Mayor Art Brown.
“When I saw that other [Korean] artists got a video with the Houston mayor, I also wanted to meet the mayor of Buena Park,” Sang-gyun said.
It was also the K-Content Expo’s first event in the U.S., having previously taken place in the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Indonesia.
It was hosted in partnership with several of South Korea’s government agencies (including the Ministry of Culture) and the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA).
The goal was to promote various aspects of Korean culture — from food, beauty, and Korean dramas to music, animation and comics.
Three of South Korea’s most popular acts— Lovelyz, JBJ95 and Heize — were the main draw of the expo, which also included a K-Content fair.
Tickets to the concert were free and sold out online within 20 minutes. Fans lined up in the early morning hours to get the best seats.
“We had a list of K-pop groups that we wanted to bring over, and these three were the most interested [in] working in the U.S.” said Chul Min Kim, director of KOCCA’s Global Business Division. “And [they] have big fan bases here as well.”
K-pop events in Southern California are often held in L.A.’s bustling Koreatown and downtown areas. In contrast, The Source provided a spacious, low-key and family-friendly environment to enjoy the expo.
There were hitches, including power outages, but in between technical difficulties, Heize encouraged her fans to come up and take selfies with her as the staff worked toward a solution. An enthusiastic fan dressed in an Olaf onesie gave her an Olaf doll.
She also called a fan up to the stage to perform Girlboy’s rap in their song “We don’t talk together.”
“That was an improv moment I’ve never done in the U.S.,” Heize said. “Next time, I want to have a big announcement beforehand, so people are ready for us to collaborate on stage.”
The eight-girl group Lovelyz, which opened the two-hour show with an arrangement of their hit songs, were celebrating their fifth anniversary. Their debut album “Girls’ Invasion” was released in November 2014.
“In honor of coming to California, we wanted to come in classic black and white,” Kei of Lovelyz said. “Thank you to all the new and old fans who came to see us at the airport!”
And JBJ95, also celebrating the one-year anniversary of their debut, shook the audience “Awake” during their opening song.
“Just being in the U.S. makes me really excited,” Takada said. “Even breathing the air in the U.S. makes me happy.”