With appearances in the American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards, the chart-topping genre of Korean popular music (K-pop) continues to rapidly grow in America as it has around the world.
Originating from South Korea, many K-pop groups organize concert tours in America every year, with tickets selling out quickly. While Las Vegas is a destination for concerts and entertainment events the city hasn’t hosted many K-pop concerts so far. However, this is changing rapidly.
The city is hosting an upcoming festival called “We Bridge,” where worldwide famous K-pop bands will perform. Additionally, UNLV is preparing to host an evening with Sue Kim of the Kim Sisters, a pioneering K-pop group with roots here in Las Vegas.
The record-breaking K-pop group BTS, referred to as the Global Juggernaut by Time magazine, performed in Las Vegas in April of last year, resulting in one of the biggest K-pop concerts the city has seen so far. According to News18 The four-day “Permission to Dance on Stage” concert tickets were sold out almost immediately, and nearly 300,000 people attended the concert.
“K-pop isn’t just a genre of music, but it’s truly an avenue that builds community. Many individuals that listen to K-pop often come from different backgrounds, not just a Korean background. That being said, most listeners don’t naturally understand the lyrics to K-pop songs, but nevertheless enjoy the music, the dances and the visuals,” said Leora Dumanlang, president of The Filipinx-American Student Association (FASA) at UNLV. She also added that she attended all of the days of the concert, stating that it was an amazing experience.
Jeremiah Hargraves, a director of FASA, also attended the concerts, “Those moments have been so unforgettable and are so impactful to me.”
Almost a year after this concert, Las Vegas is preparing to host another K-pop event featuring world-famous K-pop artists including Enhypen, Kang Daniel, Jessi and others.
The two-part event, We Bridge, will be held at Mandalay Bay from April 21 to 23 and will feature K-pop concerts and an expo where participants can have different experiences related to Asian culture.
More than 10 Korean artists will participate in the event, and the fair will give attendees the opportunity to get a closer look at Asian art, cuisine and fashion. The list of artists announced so far includes groups such as Oneus, Dreamcatcher, Enhypen, Cix, Viviz and Monsta X, as well as solo artists Kang Daniel, Jessi, Bambam and Beo.
Dumanlang and Hargraves emphasize the bridging aspect of K-pop. Dumanlang said, “The name of the event ‘We Bridge’ is very encompassing as to the purpose of K-pop as a whole. K-pop unites people with different languages and fans in different countries under a common interest, which hasn’t been done before in the same way that Korean Popular music and groups do it.”
Hargraves said, “To me ‘We Bridge’ is bringing everyone together. People from all over the world are coming through to all enjoy a weekend full of K-pop. All enjoy the same artists and can meet new people who all like the same things, as the event bridges cultures, music, people and all different kinds of energy together.”
Although We Bridge will be one of the biggest Asian events to take place in Las Vegas, it is not the only upcoming K-pop event.
On May 4, UNLV will host a conversation with Sue Kim, a member of the Kim Sisters, one of the first K-pop groups to gain fame in America in the 50s and 60s. In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Sue Kim will be a guest on the Las Vegas Stories, a monthly series that tells stories through history and people.
“I love that K-pop concerts are coming to Vegas now. But we need more,” said Hargraves. “So many groups or solo artists that are touring always skip over Vegas, so it’s disheartening because those chances are very few. So I hope more groups or K-pop festivals occur in Vegas so more memories can be made.”
Dumanlang said she is planning to attend “We Bridge,” stating, “It was seldom that K-pop groups went to Las Vegas during tours because LA was so close to us. I‘m glad that Las Vegas is becoming recognized as a concert spot for K-pop groups because it allows local K-pop fans to see their favorite groups without having to fly to travel to California and spend additional money.” She added, “I have no doubt that K-pop will continue to build community and bridge gaps.”