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Another KTMF spectacle at Hollywood Bowl!
By Tae Hong and Brian Han
The Hollywood Bowl was a hotspot on a welcomed blue-skies Los Angeles day once more Saturday as it hosted the 13th annual Korea Times Music Festival, the oldest celebration of its kind in the United States.
A sellout crowd, families and fans alike, came out to see more than a dozen acts — TVXQ, EXID, A Pink, Got7, Kim Bum-soo, Bada, Cool, Han Heejun, Kim Yon-ja, Kim Soo-hee, Oh Seung-geun, Im Tae-kyung — perform live on the historied stage, which has been home to American legends but also to K-pop stars of all calibers since the festival’s beginning in 2003.
While the night was a return to the festival and the city for some artists, it served as a first step into the U.S. for others.
“Just the fact that we can stand here on this stage is an honor and a great opportunity,” said Got7 member BamBam. The group, which greeted their American fans for the first time Saturday, agreed they were nervous but that a positive crowd reaction, even from those of the older generation, made the experience a fun one.
Kim Yon-ja, known as Korea’s Queen of Enka, had not been seen at the Bowl since 2010.
“I wanted to enjoy the stage with everyone with songs that we can all sing along to,” she said after her performance, which fired up the crowd with old trot favorites.
“I have never seen such a beautiful venue,” said Kim Bum-soo. “I can see why so many Korean artists want to come and perform here. It’s beautiful, the audience is enthusiastic and I had a happy time out there.”
The ballad singer said Los Angeles is a dear city to him, especially thanks to its warm weather.
“I’ve been all over the world, but there is no city like L.A.,” Kim said. “People here have this weather, this great culture and food. For people in Korea, weather like this only comes one or two months a year. I see this as a blessed land. I want to come back again to enjoy this weather and to greet the people here.”
Meanwhile, fans from across the U.S. gathered to watch their favorite K-pop artists.
Sisters Jamie, 20, and Holly Nuñez, 18, flew from Dallas, Tex., to see one act in particular, TVXQ.
“This is our first time here,” Holly said. “We really wanted to come last year and see EXO, but we didn’t have enough money. We’re so excited to be here. We don’t really have these kinds of concerts back home.”
“We’ve been listening to K-pop since 2007 or 2008 I think,” Jamie said.
Other fans seemed to have just recently gotten into the global craze.
“I’m pretty new to K-pop,” Russel Nguyen, 15, said. “We’re here to see A Pink. My friends found out about the group through me and I actually heard it first in a video game. Their song “No No No” was in it and I just thought, ‘I need to find out who this is and I listen to more of it.’”
Nguyen and his friends, visiting from Hawaii for their first KTMF, struggled to explain why they liked the genre so much.
“To be honest, I don’t really know why it’s getting so popular, but it is,” Amy Tan, 15, said. “The songs are really catchy. I just started learning Korean, but usually there are subtitles to anything I want to watch within an hour of the release.”
For some it’s about the community and culture surrounding the music.
“Image is a big part of it,” Southern California local Rebecca Kaplan, 15, said. “When you see other people with pink hair and shiny clothes or just going crazy after the same artists, it feels good to be a part of that.”