PSY, Stray Kids mark Korea National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai

Scattered rain showers on Sunday did little to dampen the spirits of K-Pop fans who lined up at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Photos: Expo 2020 Dubai
Photos: Expo 2020 Dubai

By Farhana Chowdhury

Published: Mon 17 Jan 2022, 5:09 PM

Last updated: Mon 17 Jan 2022, 6:31 PM

South Korea’s megastars PSY, Stray Kids, Sunmi, (G)I-DLE, Golden Child and Forestella graced the stage for a K-Pop concert at Jubilee Park in Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday to mark the Republic of Korea’s National Day.

Hosted by the Korea Pavilion, the star-studded event was also attended by Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, and First Lady Kim Jung-sook. Other cultural performances that took place as part of Korea National Day were traditional Jang-Gu drums and a Taekwondo martial arts demonstration by K-Tigers, a renowned performance team in South Korea.

Forestella - reigniting immortal songs

Up first at the concert were Forestella, a crossover quartet that consists of Cho Mingyu, Kang Hyungho, Bae Doohoon and Go Woorim, each with impressive vocal ranges that blew the crowd away. Their setlist included an iconic rendition of Queen's We Are The Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody, and Ennio Morricone’s Nella Fantasia, where Hyungho took on a beautiful falsetto that is surely still ringing in the ears of new fans.

They also performed a short version of Pink Soldiers, the haunting tune from the Korean thriller series, Squid Game, alongside The Legend by Korean artist Shin Seung Hun that featured sounds of forest wilderness that perfectly aligned with the light showers that passed by the venue.

Award-winning girl group (G)I-DLE followed up with popular tracks, Oh My God, HWAA, Dumdi Dumdi and LATATA. Styled in stunning brocade-lace outfits and boots, the girls taught simple dance moves to Dumdi Dumdi and encouraged the audience to join in the chorus.

Describing themselves as an experimental group with a sensual and bold image, the members - Minnie, Miyeon, Soyeon, Yuqi and Shu Hua - told the press that they were excited to be in Dubai and see Burj Khalifa up close, rather than in movies like Mission Impossible.

In a special message to fans, Soyeon, known as the “leader” of the group said: “It has been a long time since we came together and performed at an international concert. We know there are fans who have been waiting for us. We have been preparing for this moment and are excited to show you our best performances. Neverland (our fanbase), please continue to give us a lot of love.”

“Please stay healthy and safe,” added Minnie.

Sunmi - fierce and timeless

The 10-member group Golden Child showed much enthusiasm as they greeted the audience with words in Arabic. Earlier at a press conference, members chimed in that they were excited to perform for fans. In a nutshell, Daeyeol, Y, Jangjun, Tag, Seungmin, Jaehyun, Jibeom, Donghyun, Joochan, and Bomin collectively said:

“We are very honoured to be in Expo 2020 Dubai and couldn’t sleep the night before because we were very excited. During our rehearsal, we saw a lot of people cheering for us. Thank you for recognising us. We are happy to see you all. We have plans to visit other countries in the near future and hope to meet more fans around the world.”

They added: “On February 5, we have a special concert called Play, which will be available to view online. We look forward to meeting you there. Please send us much love and keep supporting us.”

On stage, they performed some of their best hits, namely - Ra Pam Pam, DamDaDi, All Day and DDARA. Jangjun asked the audience to turn on their phone flashlights and raise them high before their All Day performance, which is known to fans as a “comfort” song.

They soon handed the stage to Sunmi, who comes from the first generation of the Korean music wave. The former member of Wonder Girls has carved a formidable space in the K-Pop industry and gave fans a taste of her award-winning retro songs - You can’t sit with us, SIREN, Tail, and Gashina, a dancehall-style synth-pop number that ranked third on the Billboard USA’s Weekly World Digital Songs. Sunmi was happy and thrilled to see a full house, and promised to return in the future for another concert.

Stray Kids and PSY thrill fans

The audience roared as soon as Stray Kids’ opening tune for God’s Menu kicked in. The eight-member group (ambassadors of the Korea pavilion) consisting of members Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Han, Hyunjin, Felix, Seungmin and I.N also showcased powerful choreographies of Back Door, MIROH and Thunderous. Amid the fanchants, Bang Chan announced that their music videos surpassed over 150 million views and thanked their global fandom, Stay, for being very supportive. The group recently picked up some of South Korea’s highly revered music awards, including the Golden Disk Awards for Best Performance and album and Mnet Asian Music Award for Worldwide Fans’ Choice, and are expected to set off on a global tour soon.

Fandoms stand strong

Dubai experienced scattered rain showers on Sunday but did little to dampen the spirits of K-Pop fans who lined up at Expo 2020 Dubai as early as 7am to secure a front row view of their favourite stars in action.

”This is normal for K-Pop fans around the world, especially when it is a first-come, first-serve type of event. We came prepared with snacks and water. We also have a big UAE-based fan community online that shared important information like packing an umbrella and extra set of clothes because we knew it was going to rain,” said Shamma AlMarzooqi, 18.

By 11am the venue had around 400 fans queued beside Jubilee Park, armed with banners and funny cut-out images of their favourite band members.

“Korean artists have their own variety shows. It is a way for fans to get to know them off stage and in their natural habitat. There are a lot of hilarious moments in these shows that fans love to idolise through memes. The stars themselves are well aware of it, so it forms a friendly connection between us and them in concerts,” Angelica Reyes, 29, explained, as she pointed out a big cardboard banner that called Stray Kids’ member Felix a “TikTok King”.

Adding to the conversation, a 22-year-old Samuel Jose Tena who drove from Abu Dhabi said that fans in the UAE are conscious when it comes to behaving well in front of celebrities.

“In some countries, most of these stars get mobbed, quite literally, at the airports. Rest of us understand that it is important to respect their private space. Whether it is welcoming them at the airport or bidding them goodbye, we made sure that we stayed socially distanced and waved in a way that does not hurt anyone,” he said.

Days before the concert, fans planned several mini projects to welcome the artists, including practising special fanchants and creating trending hashtags on Twitter.

Couldn’t make it to the concert, or simply want to relive the experience? Visit EXPO 2020 Dubai’s virtual site to view the event:

Farhana Chowdhury is a freelance journalist based in Dubai

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