CJ E&M has announced that 68,000 people gathered at KCON, the world's largest K-culture festival, held in Japan for three days from the 13th to the 15th. It was the biggest KCON ever, recording a 4.5-fold increase from 15,000 people who attended the first KCON held in Japan in 2015.
Among countries that have hosted KCON in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia for the globalization of Hallyu for the 7th year since 2012, Japan is one of the key Hallyu bases accounting for 26% of the cumulative audience, second only to that of the U.S. CJ E&M has expanded the scale of KCON events every year in Japan, drawing 164,500 fans over the past four years. Last year, the company expanded KCON Japan which was held for one day in the first year to three days, diversified the range of convention programs to include a comprehensive K-lifestyle experience, and increased the number of programs more than 17 times compared to that in the first year.
◇ Expansion of convention programs for younger Hallyu fans, such as ‘K-POP Cover Dance’ and ‘K-Beauty Course’
KCON held at the Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall, Japan's iconic convention center proved the continued popularity of the K-lifestyle and the Korean Wave that have become commonplace in Japan. In line with the younger Hallyu generation and the ‘third Hallyu’ phenomenon, CJ E&M rented one more convention hall compared to last year and enhanced experiential programs where young Hallyu fans could experience the K-lifestyle.
At the convention held every day from 10 AM to 6 PM, 187 programs were offered so visitors could enjoy various Korean lifestyles in the fields of beauty, fashion, and food. The convention included diverse K-Culture experiential programs such as the cheese dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) cooking gaining huge popularity in Japan, learning Korean to use on social media, and Korean makeup and fashion.
On the first day of KCON, Ambassador Lee Su-hoon, who took office on October 31st last year, visited the convention hall and the booths of small and medium-sized businesses to meet and acknowledge the efforts of the SMEs to expand their presence in Japan by actively utilizing the growing Korean Wave content.
For Japanese teenagers familiar with social media such as YouTube, 15 creators enjoying popularity in both Japan and Korea, played an active role in the convention hall. At K-Studio set up inside the SME booths, creators communicated with fans on various topics such as beauty, lifestyles, and K-pop, while broadcasting the interaction with fans live on YouTube and producing it into digital content. Game creator 'Bogyeom,' dance/music creator 'One Million' and beauty creator 'Calary Girl' held fan meetings at the social enterprise booth and took the lead in raising corporate awareness of the participating enterprises.
Meanwhile, CJ E&M carried out social contribution activities in the host country together with its global social contribution project partner, Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, enhancing the significance of the event as a two-way cultural exchange opportunity. The company invited ‘Hues of the Wind,’ a bakery run by local underprivileged people, and ‘Mazelka,’ a handicraft seller, to support a book cafe concept booth designed to promote the local companies’ products and their brands in the convention hall. KCON is the only platform that takes the lead in creating a sustainable Hallyu ecosystem through overseas social contribution activities focused on a country’s popular cultural contents.
◇ A win-win platform that creates a bridgehead for SMEs to advance into the global market with cultural contents
CJ E&M also held export consultations and promotional exhibitions with the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, the Large and Small Business, Agriculture, and Fisheries Cooperation Foundation, and KOTRA to back up SMEs having a hard time making inroads into the global market on their own. 50 SMEs selected in advance met Japanese customers in their respective booths at the KCON Convention Center, and on the 12th, took part in an export conference with Japanese buyers in Tokyo. Furthermore, in May, the companies will have an opportunity to enter Olive Young, a health and beauty (H&B) store operated by CJ OliveNetworks, through the ‘4th Happy Companion Fair’ co-hosted by Olive Young and Seoul Creative Economy Innovation Center.
At the joint overseas expansion convention for SMEs, 35 companies (70% of the 50 participating firms) were specialized in beauty products, attesting to the popularity of 'K-beauty.' Cosmetic brand CN Company, one of the participating companies, said, “In the past two years, K-beauty has re-increased in popularity among Japanese youth through social media such as Instagram and YouTube, and Korean companies’ entry into Japan is gathering momentum again,” adding, “I decided to participate because I thought that if their product performance and cost-effectiveness were good, even small and medium-sized brands, not famous brands, would also be able to compete on the back of the Hallyu wave.”
◇ 61% of artists that performed at <M Countdown> were rookies, proving it as a global star nurturing platform
At the K-pop concert <M Countdown> held in the evening for three days, 28 teams of popular Hallyu stars such as Wanna One, SEVENTEEN and TWICE performed, drawing enthusiastic cheers from the audience. The <M Countdown> concert tickets (one-day pass costing about KRW 119,000) sold out as soon as the reservation started in March, proving the fans' passionate interest in KCON.
KCON has established itself as a steppingstone for K-pop artists wanting to advance overseas by providing them with an opportunity to stand on the global stage even for newcomer artists and performers from small agencies who had difficulties having chances for overseas performances and fan meets. Among the 28 artist teams who performed at the latest KCON, 19 teams (about 68%) were from small agencies, and 17 teams (about 61%) were newcomers in their third year of debut or less (debuting in 2016 or later).
Music genres that were focused on K-pop idols also expanded. At the convention hall at the same time as the <M Countdown> concert, the 'Super M Party' featuring diverse hip-hop stages by 'Reddy,' 'Sik-K,' 'YunB,' 'Paloalto,' and 'Huckleberry P' captivated young new Hallyu fans.
Shin Hyeong-gwan, CJ E&M's Music Content Division, who oversees KCON, said, "During the four years of KCON in Japan, I have felt that Hallyu fans are getting younger and that the Korean wave is expanding to K-lifestyle including beauty, fashion and food,” stressing, “We will continue to invest and make efforts to expand the global base of Hallyu and make Korean culture leap into the world’s mainstream culture.”
Meanwhile, CJ E&M plans to expand the momentum of Japan's KCON into North America. It is holding KCON in New York and LA in June and August, respectively, this year. CJ E&E is also exploring new venues of KCON as part of its all-out endeavors to secure new Hallyu markets across the globe.