On August 9th 2015 London held its first ever free to attend London Korean Festival within the iconic Trafalgar Square, boasting the talents of K-pop girl group F(x), K-rock band Guckkasten and an array of cultural experiences throughout the event. The entrances to the event opened at 12 noon, but from around 8am fans were already seen queuing to get a prime spot at the front of the main stage. They were accompanied by the many Korean food stalls based around the perimeter preparing their stock ready to be devoured by the masses.
There was a lot to offer in terms of small tents around the festival perimeter, from Korean snacks at the H-Mart stand, travel information by the KTO (Korean Tourism Organisation) and an assortment of cultural stands which allowed visitors to try traditional Hanbok clothing, Hangul writing lessons, as well as an introduction to the many Korean games and products for you to own at home. Not being able to resist the smells of the famous Korean fermented pickled cabbage known globally as “Kimchi”, I decided to have a try at the many different types that were available – which to my delight was extremely scrumptious, especially when accompanied with some Bulgogi and rice from the stall next door.
The number of people that attended the event was on scale much larger than I thought. There was a feeling that there would be the usual K-pop loving crowd, but seeing as the event was free and open to the public, the amount of passing visitors made the festival a bigger success than anticipated. The organisers believe that a turn out of 35,000 people was achieved. The full impact of the attendees were felt about an hour before S.M. Entertainment’s girl group F(x) took to the stage; there was no floor space at all and the crowds were even building up outside of the perimeter. The stage area was busy throughout the day with traditional dance and music performances, as well as a Psy “Gangnam Style” flash mob performance which was greatly received by the audience.
The event was a success in entertaining and educating those who wouldn’t generally have known anything about South Korea. When talking to the general public they were surprised by the beauty of the traditional costumes, and by how healthy and beneficial Korean cuisine is for the body. A small family I had the pleasure of taking to had travelled from Scotland to be at the event as they wanted to introduce their children to the different types of culture from around the world. It turned out that the children really enjoyed all of the hands on events while the parents were really surprised at how friendly the K-pop fans had been with their family by giving them balloons, banners and hand fans.
The London Korean Festival proved that there is a lot more to South Korea than just K-pop and Kimchi. Seeing as this was the first event of its kind in the UK (and going by number of people that turned up), I believe the market is there to possibly make this an annual event. If anything is to go by, the hosts final words mentioned the likes of Big Bang, 2NE1, Super Junior, BTS (Bangtan Boys), Girls Generation, 4Minute, VIXX and B1A4, meaning that there could already be cogs turning in the system to make the next festival bigger and better. It was really nice to see the UK open their arms to South Korea and help promote cultural diversity, something I wish to see more of in the near future.
Be sure to pop onto the MCM Buzz Facebook page where you can look at some images from the day’s festivities. And make sure you come back to MCM Buzz to see our coverage of the Guckkasten and F(x) press conference.