May 2, 2012

Tidal wave of K-pop heads our way

South Korean all-girl pop group Kara will be among the lineup for a K-pop festival scheduled for New Zealand next summer.

Some of South Korea's top pop bands, with millions of fans and followers around the world, could be headed to New Zealand for a huge pop music festival with the aim of spreading "Hallyu" - or the Korean cultural wave.

As part of celebrations to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between South Korea and New Zealand, the Korean Society is planning to bring the country's most popular female group, Girls' Generation, with other top pop groups such as 2PM and Kara, for a K-pop festival in the summer.

Celebrations to mark the "Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship" start on Saturday with Korean Day at the North Shore Events Centre, where K-pop will be taking centre stage.

The South Korean Embassy will also be backing New Zealand's first national K-pop competition, to take place this year.

"K-pop has become a very important part of Korea's modern and dynamic culture, which has been gaining popularity around the world," said the republic's ambassador to New Zealand, Yongkyu Park.

"Its popularity is growing in New Zealand, and in a very short time, the number of K-pop fans here has grown into the thousands and there are many fan groups here."

Mr Park said New Zealand's participation in the Korean War more than 60 years ago started a relationship with South Korea that was still flourishing.

More than 60,000 South Koreans visit New Zealand each year, 30,000 live here, and 15,000 are in the country as international students.

"The potential for our relationship can be seen in the strong personal connections and friendships which are flourishing between the two peoples," he said.

A New Zealand K-Pop fans Facebook page, set up last year, has a following of more than 1200 fans.

Girls' Generation were last year named PR ambassadors for Visit Korea Year 2012 and headlined a sold-out K-pop show in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Millions around the world have come to share a common obsession with South Korean pop music and dramas in the Hallyu phenomenon.

Other events planned to commemorate the anniversary year include a Korean film festival and a food festival.

South Korean student Josie Lee, 21, said: "I think K-pop fans will be even more crazy than those who follow One Direction."

British pop band One Direction performed at three sold-out New Zealand concerts, and brought chaos to the streets of Sydney, where a dozen young female fans fainted.

Society spokesman Ted Min said the likely venue would be either "a stadium or a vineyard" that could accommodate the expected large crowd for the K-pop festival.

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