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First KCON in Middle East draws thousands

All Headlines 11:44 March 28, 2016

SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- Thousands gathered at the world's largest K-pop festival held for the first time in the Middle East last week, its host said Monday.

More than 8,000 people came from all over the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to attend KCON 2016 Abu Dhabi at the city's largest outdoor venue, du Arena, on Friday, CJ E&M said.

The event featured Korean food, including "bibimbap," or rice mixed with vegetables and spicy red pepper sauce, prepared in halal style. Women could also try Korean makeup and learn K-pop dance routines in a women-only convention hall, away from public scrutiny.

The Korean Cultural Center, which recently opened a branch in the United Arab Emirates capital, and the Korea Creative Content Agency also opened booths to promote Korean culture.

At night, more than 5,500 people, many wearing hijab and singing along in Korean, watched South Korean boy band BTS, Taeyeon of Girls' Generation, Kyuhyun of Super Junior, Double S301, Ailee, Mosta X and Spica perform.

"It'd been unclear whether the event would succeed in the Middle East where significant cultural barriers exist," said Ahn Suk-joon, head of CJ E&M's Music Performance Division. "But we wanted to explore it as a new market for 'hallyu' anyway." Hallyu is a term that refers to the rising global popularity of Korean culture.

KCON was originally started in California in 2012 to showcase all things K-pop to overseas fans.


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