How exactly did Toronto become a hot spot for K-Pop's biggest stars?
Well, we have the fans to thank for that.
BY: LOUISE ALLYN PALMA
The start of the school year didn’t stop BTS’ Canadian fans from pulling an all-nighter, awaiting the K-Pop concert of the year in Canada. Sleeping bags, tents and lawn chairs sprawled on the sidewalks as BTS’ Army held their spot in line for the highly anticipated idol group.
K-Pop boy-band sensation BTS sold out all three of their shows at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. Thousands of fans flocked to the concert, to finally see their favourite K-Pop band live.
But this isn’t the first time that Toronto has hosted some of the biggest K-Pop stars of this generation.
In 2016, K-Pop groups GOT7, VIXX and GFRIEND came to perform for Toronto K-Pop Con, hosted by entertainment and marketing agency, Pop! Goes The World! They also hosted GOT7’s ‘EYES ON YOU’ world tour, this year at the Scotiabank Arena.
K-Pop fans in Toronto jump at the chance to see their beloved idols live. Prices can range from $100 - $300, depending on the size of the venue and the group. BTS’ concert during September had tickets skyrocket over $1000; and still sold out.
With over 17, 000 seats filled at the FirstOntario Centre for BTS’ Love Yourself World Tour, hundreds of fans lined up to attend the opening of BTS’ pop-up store for BT21 (the collaboration between BTS and LINE FRIENDS) in Scarborough Town Centre on Nov. 30; it’s evident that there is a huge Korean pop culture fandom in Toronto.
But how exactly did this East-Asian music genre get here?
Dr. CedarBough Saeji, a professor at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Asian Studies explained that initially, it was South Korea’s neighbouring countries that caught onto K-Pop first—countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan alongside Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand and the Philippines.
Saeji explains that growing up in these countries means growing up listening to K-Pop.
“I mean, if you’re growing up in China today – you’re growing up with K-Pop. And if you move to Canada, it’s not like you’re going to stop listening to K-Pop,” Saeji said. She continued on to explain that both Korean diaspora and Asian population, share this music with their peers.
“So, if you look at Canada and you look at the teenager areas, where there’s a lot of K-Pop activity – it is Toronto, it is Vancouver. And that’s very much because you have this vibrant population of Asian immigrants who are spreading this out further, beyond them,” she said.
Mimmy, a third-year university student and a K-Pop fan, said that she discovered the genre from a friend.
“People who are my age share, and spread the word about K-Pop. More and more people get interested… For me, I love the music. The beats and choreographies is what I love the most. Also, they’re (K-Pop idols) so cute,” Mimmy said.
This doesn’t mean Asians are the only ones who share an interest in K-Pop.
“As far as I’m concerned, these are not just kids that are immigrating or exchange students, these are the people that those kids already introduced this music to… And when I teach a gigantic class, I do notice I have students who do not have Asian heritage, and they already know what K-Pop is and they’ve decided ‘I want to take a whole class about Korean popular music,’” Saeji explained.
Love for K-Pop is not just shared by telling your friends; it is also spread through social media.
Steven Chau shares his love for K-Pop through his Instagram page, @chauchautrain where he amassed over 20, 000 followers. He does K-Pop dance covers and posts original choreography.
“K-Pop is a very social media thing,” Chau said. Social media is a platform for K-Pop to be widely spread. Not only amongst the fandom, but fans can directly interact with their favourite K-Pop idols by commenting on their social media posts or by documenting their first meeting with a K-Pop idol; posting it as an Instagram story.
Check out Steven starring in ONE OK ROCK's newest song "Stand Out, Fit In" as he shows off his dance skills too, by clicking on the video to the right!
It could be the first moment they see them in concert, or when they set their eyes on them when they land at the airport. K-Pop fans around the world can connect with posts like this, and quite possibly, the K-Pop idol that was tagged in the post may see it as well.
Chau is also a Toronto-based professional dancer/ choreographer who was also the manager/ coordinator for the Canada Dream Stage showcase for Toronto K-Pop Con.
“It was a rollercoaster,” Steven Chau said, describing the process when he was a regular volunteer for Toronto K-Pop Con 2016.
And the craziness does not start once the idols arrive at Pearson airport. An entire process occurs months before the day of the concert. From negotiations between the Toronto concert hosts and the K-Pop groups’ entertainment companies, keeping track of travel requirements for the K-Pop idols and their staff.
“A lot of my K-Pop friends that I made, are online. And we just connect so easily even though we don’t see each other in person and that’s because of K-Pop,” Chau explained.
It’s no surprise that thanks to Toronto’s strong Asian population and the way social media can connect fans regardless of ethnicity, K-Pop has found a home in Toronto.
Photo courtesy from top down: @K_POP_Amber [CC BY-SA 4.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons, Ezra Comeau Jeffrey (Unsplashed,) 뉴스인스타 (NewsInStar) [CC BY 3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons and Ciaran O'Brien (Unsplashed.)