RIYADH: The Kingdom’s capital felt the full force of K-pop fandom as KCON’s premier music festival made its grand return over the weekend at Mohammed Abdo Arena, Boulevard Riyadh City on Friday, featuring 14 Korean bands.
Last year, Riyadh hosted the Kingdom’s inaugural KCON music and cultural festival, and this year’s Riyadh KCON featured even more Korean acts than the previous year, along with an exhibition dedicated to Korean culture and a market selling a variety of Korean products.
The two-day KCON 2023 festival featured Korean bands and solo artists, including Everglow, Highlight, Kard, Riize, Super Junior, Dreamcatcher, EL7Z Up, Evnne, Oh My Girl, Tempest, and The New Six.
Some of the shows included meet-and-greet sessions, during which fans received signed photographs of their favorite K-pop albums.
“I love this year’s line-up, which included Korean bands from the first wave of K-pop, Super Junior and Highlight. I listened to their music as a teenager, and I am 28 years old now. I never thought I would see them live, let alone in Riyadh,” said Razan Al-Harbi, a first-time attendee of Riyadh KCON.
“Their energy is beyond amazing. I attended other concerts before, but KCON has always been different. It not only brings our favorite Korean bands and artists here to our home, but also elements of Korean culture to Riyadh, like food, snacks, and other products,” said Reem Ibrahim, a second-time attendee at Riyadh KCON.
KCON is one of the largest Korean cultural festivals, created by Koreaboo and organized by CJ ENM, a Seoul-based entertainment company.
The Kingdom’s hosting of KCON is part of an agreement signed between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and CJ ENM in June 2022, reflecting the ministry’s efforts to promote international cultural exchange in line with the goals of Vision 2030.
“Korea and Saudi Arabia have been economic partners for the past 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1962. And through the spread of Korean culture, we seek to further enhance cultural and tourism exchanges between Korea and Saudi Arabia,” said Seo Young-Choong, executive vice president of the international tourism division of the Korea National Tourism Organization.
He added: “Saudi nationals represent about 55 percent of the total winter tourism market in the (Gulf Cooperation Council). It has, therefore, emerged as a very important strategic market for tourism in Korea.”
KNTO held a marketing pavilion for Visit Korea Year 2023-2024 at the KCON exhibition. The organization has designated 2024 as a special promotion year to enhance the appeal of Korea as a destination for visitors from Saudi Arabia. It plans to develop and promote Korean travel products in collaboration with international travel agencies, local outbound travel agencies, and airlines.
“KNTO also works to provide basic tourism information such as halal food and prayer places, which are important factors among tourists from the Middle East,” said Seo.