“Why did you choose Korea out of all the different locations for exchange?”
“Oh, because I like K-Pop and I like K-Culture. And of course Korean food! Well, I also love the R&D culture that KAIST has, and the fact that Korea’s tech scene is pretty advanced.”
That was the answer I gave during my interview when I was a Term 3 student applying for GEXP. And I’m glad to say that it was also the answer I gave to the various friends I’ve made here.
Over the past 2+ months in Korea, I’ve had the amazing chance to attend various concerts and festivals. In fact, I’m typing the first half of this post while on the way back to Daejeon from Seoul Festa 2023.
Even though KAIST’s campus is situated in Daejeon, that doesn’t mean Seoul is inaccessible. Usually, if I’m not in a rush, I’ll take the Express Bus to Seoul (you can book the bus online through this link, or use the kiosk at the stations), which usually takes around 2 hours if there’s no jam in Seoul. Otherwise, other options include trains – KTX being the fastest (and priciest…) train, taking slightly over 1 hour, while ITX and Mugunghwa are around 2x slower (since they stop at more places). Speed aside, the main difference between them is the fact that KTX and ITX trains have small tables so you can do your work on the train – for all you workaholics like me. Mugunghwa trains and buses have no tables, but you could always use your lap as a table 😀 To book trains, do use the official Korail link to avoid getting scammed into paying more by third-party sites like Rail Ninja!
Okay, on to the more interesting and fun things :> (ps: if you just need tips for booking tickets, just scroll all the way to the bottom)
Concerts and Festivals
Concert #1 – TWICE READY TO BE (15 April)
To be honest, I never expected this to be the first concert I would attend here. I wasn’t really expecting them to have a tour during these few months and had only been heavily manifesting iKON’s concert (spoiler alert: iKON had a concert, and I had the best time of my life there. Read on to find out more!).
Similar to Singapore, for K-Pop concerts in Korea, there are usually fanclub presales that grant you early access (around 1-2 days) to purchasing the tickets. This is then followed by the general sale, which is open to everyone.
As such, since I wasn’t a member of TWICE’s official fan club (please don’t cancel me…I just can’t imagine my bank account if I joined all the fan clubs of all the groups I love…), I was pleasantly surprised to be able to successfully book their concert tickets on Yes24’s global site. The site is in English, and it’s very easy to use. For payment, you don’t need a Korean bank card, and you can just use typical cards like Revolut, YouTrip or Trust.
Okay, moving on to the actual concert day! I actually reached Seoul on 13 April since I had prior appointments for my US visa interview for GLP. Though the merchandise booth opened at 12pm, I reached around 1.20pm and saw that the queue for the merchandise was…very long. And it was raining at that 🙁 In total, I think I queued for around 2 hours, and some of the merchandise was already sold out by the time it was my turn. Since this concert was the weekend right before my midterms, I decided to study a bit while waiting in the queue, as well as while waiting for the concert to start.
I’m sure most people who have attended concerts before would know that there are usually lightsticks sold at the concert venue. But for TWICE, the lightstick queue was a separate one from the merchandise booth. But they imposed requirements like…needing your ticket before being able to buy a lightstick. For me, I was lucky enough to have gotten my Alien Registration Card (ARC) and bank account set up 2 days before the concert, so I was able to make an online pre-order for the lightstick before the concert. This also required me to link my Korean phone number to my ARC for authentication purposes, so the timing of everything was really clutch. Nevertheless, it still took me a while to queue and collect the lightstick.
Since I booked my ticket on the Yes24 site, I had to get my physical copy at a physical booth on the concert day. Unlike Singapore, there wasn’t an option to pay an extra fee to mail it to my residence. The process of acquiring the physical ticket is rather simple, you just need to show proof of your purchase (e.g.: purchase confirmation email with your full name) and identification documents (e.g.: passport, ARC). The only bummer would probably be the queue during the collection process.
If you’ve attended concerts in Singapore in 2017-2019, you would have seen fan-made merchandise (e.g.: photocards, banners, image pickets, cheering slogans, headbands) being distributed for free and fans just being carefree and doing random dance challenges while waiting for the concert to start. For some reason, it seems that it’s really hard to find free fan support now at concert venues. Almost everyone charges for anything. And it’s the same in Korea too. I was lucky enough to get one free banner from a fellow Tzuyu stan, and another free banner from a pair of Malaysian fans that offered me one since I didn’t have any banners at that time. I also got some free photocards and bottled water from a Jeongyeon stan!
The concert itself was really great – I was surprised when I entered the venue to see that the “Standing” category was actually full of seats and that everyone was really organised in the Standing category. Since I bought Seating Floor 1, I was at a higher elevation. Entering the venue is rather straightforward, just show your ticket and the ushers will guide you to your seat too.
For KSPO Dome, it seems that there is a middle track between Seating Floors 1 and 2, and the members actually used it as a track in one of their performances (fancam from another fan). The members got really up close and personal with many fans who were near the edges. In hindsight, I sometimes wonder if it would have been better to get a seat further from the stage on floor 1 since it would be closer to the middle track.
PS: editing this draft in September after TWICE’s concert in Singapore, looking back, I was really lucky to have gotten to see TWICE in Korea on the first day of the READY TO BE tour! Singapore also doesn’t have a platform for the middle track, so this concert in Seoul was truly different from anything else that I had ever attended.
Concert #2 – Hiphopplaya Festival (29 April)
Simply…amazing. My close friends would know that I took really long to consider if I should attend this festival, given that it was rather pricey and I had already booked tickets for the Daegu Hiphop Festival (Concert #5 / Festival #2 below). Initially, when I first came across the festival, I saw that B.I was performing, and while I really wanted to see him perform live, I decided against going for this at first simply because it was too expensive (109000 won, around $109 SGD). Eventually, after they added Bobby to the lineup, I decided to go as many iKONICs suggested that there was a small chance of seeing them perform together as Double B. [edit from September: so this happened right when I was about to publish this post, so I just had to add it in]. Although this didn’t happen eventually, I’m glad I still got to watch the many amazing and lit performances from so many artists.
This was my first ever K-Hiphop Concert/Festival in my life, and I had no idea what to expect when I first signed up for it. My friend who went for a spring festival at the same venue told me that the fans were all quite chill and everyone sat on picnic mats while listening to the music, but upon checking past videos from Hiphopplaya Festival, I was unsure about how this crowd would be like since most people seemed to be standing and pushing and enjoying the music.
Well, it turned out that this festival indeed involved a lot of pushing and fighting with everyone else in the standing pen – while in the rain. Fortunately, for this concert, since the rain was predicted the day before, disposable ponchos were provided for all attendees. Though it got a bit hot as the rain subsided, I think it was a super fun experience overall, and I would definitely attend it again if I could.
There were also a lot of food booths (with quite overpriced food) outside the main festival area. Picnic mats were not provided, so I sat on the poncho while eating and watching the performance from slightly further away.
During the festival, there was also a photobooth (a staple in Korea!) and a group of live artists spray painting the walls. How cool is that! I was unfortunately unable to find any pictures of it online and forgot to snap a picture in real life because I was so stunned by its beauty.
Concert #3 – Seoul Festa Opening Ceremony (30 April)
My first free concert with a lineup of many K-Pop artists! Although initially meant for foreigners who are in Korea for less than a month, I was able to get tickets as a member of iKON’s fanclub. Being my first time attending an event as part of a fanclub, and it was really really nice getting to fangirl together with my fellow iKONICs~
The whole weekend was full of rain, and halfway through the first few performances, it started raining really really heavily. It was so heavy that the people who paid for the unsheltered VIP area moved into the sheltered area despite the restricted view. Nevertheless, despite the weather, every single person performing that night put on an incredible show. It was really nice being part of the opening ceremony of such a huge event in Korea, and I felt incredibly grateful part of such a special event, even if I was really really far away from the stage. I can only hope that the idols didn’t fall sick from getting wet in the rain.
Since my luggage barely had space when I first prepared for this trip, I couldn’t pack my lightstick into my luggage. I also couldn’t buy it online since most stores took the listing off once news of a new lightstick broke. Since the new lightstick was only shipping from 5 May onwards, I was stuck without a lightstick for Seoul Festa. However, by some magical twist of fate, the girl next to me actually had 2 lightsticks with her! Before the concert started, she offered me some sweets out of the blue, and when the concert started, I decided to muster up the courage to ask her if I could borrow one of her lightsticks for the concert. Fortunately, she said yes. And that’s the story of how I was able to have fun shaking the lightstick alongside my fellow iKONICs.
Concert #4 – iKON TAKE OFF (5 May)
Remember how I said I was manifesting IKON’s concert? Manifestation worked indeed 🤌 No words are ever enough to express how happy I was to have been able to attend this concert. I’ve considered IKON as my favourite group since a long time ago, and being able to see them live again was truly a dream come true.
Despite the heavy rain that lasted the entire day, and the chaos that ensued because of it (e.g.: dropping my ticket and it ending up horribly drenched, my umbrella flipping the wrong way, and my hair being a mess because of the rain), it was the best day I ever had. This one-day trip to Seoul was truly worth it, and leaving my dorm at 6.50am to make the 7.30am bus to Seoul – 10/10 would do again. Though my feet were aching by the time I left Seoul at 9.40pm, I never felt more revitalised than this in my entire life.
I also learnt my lesson from the TWICE concert and reached around 10.45am to queue for merchandise. With the merchandise booth opening at 11am, it was quite a miracle that all the merchandise was still present when I reached the front of the line.
Honestly, I panicked a lot before the concert as I did not have a lightstick. And if you’ve been following iKON for a while, you’d know that they recently just released a new version of the lightstick, and the old one was completely impossible to find in Seoul because of the change in company and stock issues etc. Fortunately, they sold the lightstick as part of the merchandise instead of through a separate queue, so I was able to quickly get my lightstick alongside all the other tour merchandise that I bought.
When I first booked the tickets for the ‘Standing’ category, I thought that I would be just sitting in rows with the other attendees, similar to the TWICE concert. However, to my surprise, upon checking the website for more details a few weeks later, I found that it was genuinely a standing pen! If you’ve watched any of iKON’s performances, you might know that it’s so much fun to jump around and enjoy their music while standing.
Coincidentally, since it was also their comeback period, there was a popup store happening. Since I managed to get my merchandise really early (~6 hours before the concert), I decided to head over to The Hyundai Seoul (and also grab lunch while on the way)! Popup stores are definitely a must-visit if your favourite group has one. There’s usually free Wi-Fi on public transport in Korea, so I managed to squeeze in some work on my commute too (yay!).
Back to the concert experience…! The “seats” that were chosen when booking the tickets were essentially the queue numbers that were used for entry (i.e. closer to the stage when booking = lower queue number = enter the stadium first). I managed to stand decently near the stage, and it was really nice that people weren’t pushing so intensely to the point where everyone would feel suffocated. I also managed to make a new friend while in the queue for the merchandise, and we still talk occasionally on Instagram!
PS: this post is titled ‘koncerts in korea’… because fellow ikonics would remember iKON’s first Asian tour/concert (with a stop in Singapore!) in 2016 being titled ‘iKONCERT 2016: Showtime Tour’. okay bye
Concert #5: Daegu Hiphop Festival (7 May)
To be honest…this was a hectic weekend. After the iKON concert on Friday night, I returned to Daejeon and attended an “MT” (stay tuned to my next post where I’ll share more about it!) from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. I then rushed to Daegu for this festival and almost could have missed the one performance that I really really wanted to see (spoiler: it’s B.I again).
For this festival, food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were sold, and there was both a standing and seated zone. This was nice since standing for the whole festival is rather infeasible, given how long it is. As usual, the food was rather overpriced, but we didn’t have much of a choice since outside food was not permitted.
Unfortunately, unlike the Hiphopplaya Festival mentioned earlier, the organisers for this festival did not provide ponchos for attendees, so a friend kindly got them for us before we went to the festival.
Overall, the second half of the festival (that I actually got to watch) was simply life-changing. From B.I singing 2 of his new, unreleased singles (the songs are now out in his latest album!), to ZICO performing his hit songs such as “Any Song”, “Yes or No”, “Okey Dokey”, and “Turtle Ship”, the night ended with AOMG’s performances, which were truly the best way to end the night.
It was a pity that I didn’t get to stay longer in Daegu to actually explore Daegu further, but it’s definitely on my bucket list now!
Concert #6: KAIST Taeul-Seoklim Festival (16 and 18 May)
KAIST’s official website described this festival as such: “Student rock bands and famous rock artists get the crowd riled up during this festival, the biggest summer festival at KAIST. Food tents and exhibition booths also fill the campus, attracting many Daejeon residents.”.
Indeed, during this festival, there were performances not only by students but also by celebrities/idols! There were also some food booths and food trucks set up near the large field which can be seen in some of the pictures below. Some of these booths were even run by students!
As also described by some of my fellow Korean GEXP goers, a university festival is something that many Korean universities organise to celebrate the hard work of their students and to celebrate the end of the Spring semester. Schools usually invite major names in the music and entertainment industry to come to their campus and perform for students. There are also often performances by various student clubs and groups before the main headliner(s) show up.
For KAIST, there were 4 main headliners spread out over 2 days: H1-KEY (you might know some of the members for being trainees under the Big 3 companies or for appearing on survival shows etc), Jo Yuri (you might also know her from IZ*ONE), Mirani (you might know her from SMTM9), and PSY (everyone knows him). As expected, the one that garnered the most attention was definitely PSY, and while I don’t actively listen to his songs as much as I do other groups or artists, I must say he was really impressive at hyping up the crowd and getting everyone interested in the performance. However, the one thing that stuck with me was the fact that someone brought an IZ*ONE lightstick to the festival – this was truly surprising.
Nevertheless, I can’t deny my jealousy of all other universities’ lineups. Sadly, it wasn’t possible for us to visit other universities’ festivals, so I watched a lot of these performances on YouTube instead. Universities in Seoul had performances headlined by artists like CL (of 2NE1), iKON, IVE, ITZY, (G)I-DLE and more. But it was still so fun to have such a fun event during the term!
[Bonus] Concert #5.5: Blackpink Born Pink World Tour (13 May)
Did I really fly back to Singapore for this? Yes.
Looking back, May was truly a wild month for me. As if the rush over the previous weekend with iKON’s concert, an MT, and the Daegu Hiphop Festival wasn’t enough…
On the night of 12 May, I flew back to Singapore. Since I had no lessons that day, I also took the opportunity to explore Incheon with my friends before setting off for the airport. It was a short visit, so we simply had lunch (cockle fried rice!) and dessert (at a fancy cafe with amazing seaview) before I set off for Singapore.
I’m sure many have already read about the chaos that was the Blackpink VIP area, how everyone was just squeezing in the area and how things were so messy while waiting for the concert to start, so I shall not bore you with the details. Instead, enjoy this picture of them from the VIP pen 🙂
- Use navyism to check the current time. You can select where you’re buying tickets from, and also see the live chat where others share about what they’re using the website to countdown for. They also provide alerts around 3-5 seconds before the next hour (e.g.: 1:00:00PM), 1 minute, 2 minutes and 3 minutes before it. You can even see the millisecond counter, hide the date, or request for no red text to be displayed! I heard that some Koreans even use this site to get an accurate time when they’re bidding for their modules.
- You can open a few tabs at once, and just refresh once the sale starts! I usually open around 3 tabs, and 1 should be able to access the site. It’s pretty similar to how we all refresh MyPortal during subject enrolment period. Just more stressful 🤩
- Go early if you wanna snag some merchandise! Queues for merchandise will probably start around 2 hours before the booth actually opens, and expect to wait a few hours in line! You can usually find the items for sale online (e.g.: on Twitter), so be sure to decide what you want beforehand and come up with a list of backup options too.
- Lightstick! Having a lightstick really adds on to the hype and fun of a concert. While some concerts may have lightsticks as part of the merchandise booth, others may opt for 2 separate booths, leading to more queues. If you have time, you might be able to drop by stores in Seoul to try your luck at finding a lightstick there before the concert! Nevertheless, having a lightstick isn’t a must for a concert – so don’t be too worried if you don’t get one (as if I wasn’t worried about it for days…but we shall not talk about that any further)
- Don’t be scared to go alone! If you’re going early to buy merchandise, you’ll meet other people in the queue while waiting. The wait is often very very long, so step out of your comfort zone, and talk to them! And maybe you’ll even find a new friend after that! Plus, how often will you find other like-minded individuals that you can fangirl/fanboy with?
- I’m sure you already know this if you’re a big enough K-Pop fan, but you can find a few shops at Myeongdong Station’s underground mall selling albums. A Google search will probably also show you several stores above ground on the main streets of Myeongdong, but I found that the prices at the stores underground were slightly cheaper. However, the stores above ground had a lot more stock, even featuring 2nd-gen groups such as 2NE1, BEAST, and BIGBANG. Do what you will with this information!
- During comeback season, you can also find pop-up stores (the ones where you get a chance to get a limited edition photocard/fan sign opportunities etc) at Hyundai Mall Seoul, or maybe in Seongsu area. Throughout my time in Korea, I’ve heard/seen that Jisoo (of BLACKPINK), Bobby (of iKON), iKON, Le Sserafim, Seventeen, NMIXX, and fromis_9 had popup stores.
- Finally, if you’re a workaholic like me, you can bring along your work while waiting in the queue or waiting for the concert to start (unless you’re in the Standing category). It’s not the easiest, but it’s not impossible…I guess.
The End (For Now)
I guess if you’re wondering if I find life in Daejeon boring compared to Seoul — well, some may argue that it is. Realistically, Daejeon is smaller than Seoul after all, and there’s only 1 subway line in Daejeon. Daejeon doesn’t have the cool attractions or tourist spots that Seoul does. But would I ever trade living in quiet, peaceful, and homely Daejeon for living in bustling, busy, and noisy Seoul? I think I would not.