Day 1 of the Korea Branding and Entertainment Expo, coinciding with President Park’s State Visit, was very much business-focused, with fashion and contents buyers browsing the many stalls. Day 2 was given over to the visual arts and musical entertainments.
Downstairs, in the spectacular vaulted basement, was a huge exhibition of video art, celebrating the creative technologies of Korea and the UK. But what the younger audience had come to see was on the main stage on the ground floor. Percussion quartet Gong Myoung, now regular visitors to Britain, filled the former fish market with sound, but what many of the crowd had come to hear was one of Korea’s leading girl bands.
Bringing 2NE1 over to the UK to do a three-song set at mid-day was an extravagance which all the visitors seemed to enjoy – and K-pop fans registering to attend had managed to crash KOTRA’s website several times over in order to secure their places. Even more entertaining was hologram performance from another act from the YG Entertainment stable, PSY.
Perhaps there could have been less house lighting to enable the audience to focus on the stage where multiple PSYs were doing the horse dance simultaneously, but the experience far surpassed expectations. Gone are the days when a hologram is a feeble, blue-grey transparent image, wavering like a candle flame in the breeze. The holographic PSY and fellow performers were as large and as colourful as life. PSY could be cloned many times, and in a bit of computer trickery members of the audience who had posed as PSY in a photo booth prior to the performance found their avatars dancing with PSY on stage.
In fact, PSY seemed to be everywhere you looked: adorning the Bibigo fast-food stall, advertising a TV channel and more and looking down on you in a pink DJ from the pillars. Bibigo is run by CJ Foods, and CJ E&M were not about to be outdone by YG artists: they had hired some local girls to dress up as Crayon Pop. I’m not sure that they performed a useful function, and your average visitor not well up in current K-pop fashion might have been puzzled at the strange sight, but somehow among everything else that was going on it didn’t look too odd.
Punters queued up to play a board game of Bibigo snakes and ladders, at which the prize which everyone seemed to win was a hairband with green flashing ears. For those more careful of the way they looked, you could have yourself made-up in the style of a K-pop performer.
Korea Brand and Entertainment Expo runs 4 – 6 November 2013 at Old Billingsgate in the City.