ISA Experience

How Concerts in Korea Compare

Brittney Neset is a student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and an ISA Featured Blogger. Brittney is studying and participating in service-learning abroad with ISA in Seoul South Korea.

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Back home I have been to a slew of concerts, but none of them measure up to the ones that I’ve seen during my study abroad adventures in Seoul. Concerts back home in America are pretty great, but they don’t even hold a flame compared to their Korean counter-parts. So far during my trip, I’ve been for three Korean Pop concerts: MBLAQ, 2NE1, and B2ST. All of which I’m just noticing are abbreviations  in generally not very good English, but that’s besides the point.

Kpop, aka Hallyu, has been something that has slowly been gaining attention over seas and that’s what drives many students to gain an interest in Korea… Myself included. So, when it was official that I was going to be going to Seoul for the summer, I scoured the internet and found out who was going to be playing while I was there. And I just happened to get lucky and have some of my favorite groups preforming while in Korea.

To make things simple and much less long, I’ll just tell you all about the differences in Korea Pop concerts and the ones I’m accustomed to at home in the US.

Fangirls. Compared to the girls, and guys, at home, American fans are not nearly as devoted to their groups as they are here. Fans here not only have signs, but also bring their tablets for LED signs, dress up as their favorite band member’s cartoon character, and not to mention the screams going out of their mouths that don’t quite sound human. Fans in Korea are very devoted to their groups, and it shows. If you’re going to a concert just to go, don’t let anyone else know or you’ll get glared at! Also, if you’re in the standing section, get ready to get pushed by little Asian high school girls in a desperate attempt to touch their favorite band member. The Koreans don’t do anything half-hearted when it comes to fan-girling.

Fan Chants. When I went to my first concert here, this really threw my for a loop. I had been vaguely aware of the chanting that the fans do at concerts, but I had no idea how elaborate they were! If you’re going to a Kpop concert, it wouldn’t help to Google the group’s fan chants so you don’t look as silly as I did just standing there with a dumb look on my face as all the fans yelled out things in unison to the members.

Light Sticks. This is my favorite thing about Kpop concerts! It’s very, very common to see the fans in the crowd with light up sticks (think glow-sticks, but with a battery instead of glowing chemicals and the band’s name on it.) I’d say at least 70% of all people in attendance have their light sticks and wave them proudly during the concert. It give the audience a really cool look as well as showing support for the group performing on stage. If you don’t have one of the group light sticks, don’t worry! You can buy them at the concert, either official ones from the company of the group… or cheaper ones from off-brand sellers. Either way, pick one up if you’re going to a show!

Severe Lack of English. This one is really obvious, especially since I’m studying in a country where most of the people don’t speak English, but it was a bizarre thing to me regardless. The groups here, just like any other group, likes to talk to the audience between their songs… except I couldn’t understand a word of it. The group members would ask something to the audience (you could tell by the way their voices went up at the end of the sentence) and I would promptly respond with my loudest “NAE!!!!!” which means yes in Korean. Even though all of the groups we saw are Korean groups and their English isn’t very good for the most part, I was hoping to get a few English sentences out of them. Some groups are better than others with this, but usually the English is left out. So if you’re going to a concert, make friends with a Korean who speaks English so they can help you!

Crazy Ajumma fans. First of all, let me explain Ajumma to you. Ajumma is the Korea equivalent of Mrs. and usually is used for women over the age of 45. I was very, very surprised at home many women my mother’s age were at the concert. I had expected a few parents with their kids, maybe, and then mostly people High School to College aged. But again, I was very wrong. There were Ajumma’s all around us who were just as hardcore fans as the people my age. But watch out, they’re mean! Don’t get in their way or they’ll mow you over on the way to grope their favorite band member.

Length of the Concerts. This was another thing that really surprised me about concerts in Korea. For starters, the concerts I’ve been to have not had starter bands, just the main group who was holding the concert. Each concert is usually two hours longs, filled with solid singing and dancing by the groups. If I was in their position, I would have been practically dead by the time the end of those two hours finally finished. But, each show was awesome, even though I could tell the artists were exhausted. The groups here really care about their fans and really want to give them the best show possible. (And this is often expressed in a song to the fans where the singers will start crying… This actually happens often…)

Overall, my experience with concerts here has been awesome! They’re been far better than I had ever expected and they definitely top the list of my all time favorite concerts.

Below are a few pictures from each of the concerts I went to, a picture of the light sticks I mentioned above, and my little Korean friend that helped me translate at the 2NE1 concert.

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