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Korean music in the last few years has exploded and reached Western audiences more than ever before. Maybe Gangnam Style playing on repeat in our collective consciousness had something to do with it, or perhaps because of the growing American Korean demographic. Due to the genre’s newfound popularity, music festivals in South Korea are on the rise and they are attracting both foreign and local top talent. Here’s our breakdown of the best Korean music festivals:
Seoul Jazz Fest, Seoul
Located in Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Park, the upcoming May 2019 version of the Seoul Jazz Festival will be its 13th iteration. While multi-day passes for the event are yet to go on sale and the lineup has not been announced, many big names agreed to headline the 2018 event. Music fans from the United States were excited to see recognizable names like Ms. Lauryn Hill, Jessie J, Iron and Wine, and Kehlani.
One of the biggest gigs that Korean artists can land is Greenplugged Festival. Because of its huge success, and continually growing popularity, Greenplugged has events not just in Seoul but also now in Gyeongju in the fall and Donghae, which just had its first festival in July 2018. Besides touting a “locals only” lineup, the festival is well known for its commitment to the environment.
Ultra Korea, Seoul
Ultra Music Festival, since its inception in 1999 when it debuted in Miami, has grown at an unprecedented rate and now holds EDM festivals on every continent except for Antarctica. A tradition now since 2012, Ultra Korea takes place in Seoul and often sells out the day that tickets go on sale. Ultra will return in June 2019 and their 2018 festival included big name acts like David Guetta, Zedd, and The Chainsmokers.
Rainbow Island Music Festival, Jaraseom-ro
Taking place in a natural space on an island called Jaraseom-ro, Rainbow Island is a remote festival experience. The festival caters to campers by setting up a café and marketplace. While the main stage welcomes big-name Korean artists like Gogostar, Dynamic Duo, and Kusumoen, there are other venues set up around the island like the popular Forest Reggae Club.
Dream Concert, Seoul
Occurring every year since 1995 in Seoul, Dream Concert is the hottest ticket in K-Pop. The largest of its kind, Dream is a unique experience. Hosted by Korean personalities and featuring some of the biggest names in the genre, the event is attended by some of the most die-hard fans in the world. The fanboys and fangirls attend wearing colors that represent their favorite acts and many come prepared with complex choreographed dances which they do while their favorite songs play.
Seoul World DJ Festival, Seoul
In the last two years, Seoul World DJ Festival has attracted such acts as AC Slater, Porter Robinson, Mura Masa, Zeds Dead, Madeon, and Black Tiger Sex Machine. This festival was the first Korean event dedicated to EDM performances and because of that, 11 years since it began, organizers still maintain their impressive curation of talent. Located in the heart of the South Korean capital, the event is easily accessible — remember to check out the best things to do in Seoul while you’re there. If you’re stuck for time, these affordable tours in the city are a get way to pack in all the sights in a short time.
Pentaport Rock Festival, Incheon
The Pentaport Rock Festival is held every year in Incheon. Incheon is a city that borders Seoul but has its own unique vibe. The city of about three million has big city appeal while its proximity to the sea gives laid-back back feel. The festival itself, despite its name, attracts artists from both the rock and EDM communities. 2018 saw performances by Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine, Hoobastank, and Walk the Moon. The year prior brought acts like Dua Lipa, Bastille, and Charlie XCX.
K-Pop World Festival, Changwon
Held in Changwon, South Korea’s ninth largest city near Busan, the K-Pop World Festival is part music festival and part game show. The show, which is sponsored by the South Korean government, brings in the finalists of a months-long search for the most talented K-Pop fans. The competition is hardly limited to Koreans though as past winners have come from the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ireland, Czech Republic, and Uzbekistan. The 2018 version’s top two awards went to a South African and a contestant from Thailand.
Korea Times Music Festival (Los Angeles)
Although the Korea Times Music Festival is held every year in the United States, it is no less authentically Korean. The annual event gets star treatment as performances take place at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. With a huge Korean-American population, Los Angeles’s very own Korean festival sells out every year. The vast majority of performers are K-Pop artists. Last April the event featured Red Velvet, Rain, and Kim Bum-soo, giant names in the Korean music world.