10 ways to feed your K-pop obsession in L.A., from cupsleeve events to dance parties
Even before names like BTS, Blackpink and NewJeans got cozy on Billboard charts and shows like Netflix’s “Squid Game” and Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” became required viewing, Korean pop culture has been mesmerizing audiences around the world. Hallyu, or the “Korean wave,” is a phenomenon that began in the 1990s when South Korea focused on building its cultural power in other parts of Asia, as well as Europe and the United States. A winning formula was struck, and soon, fans couldn’t get enough of the catchy, feel-good music (and synchronized dance moves) of K-pop groups, the satisfying escapism of Korean TV dramas, the innovations in the Korean beauty industry and other exports that transcend continents. The Korean wave had become a tsunami.
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If you’re wondering where to begin on your own hallyu journey, you’re in the right spot. There are plenty of ways to get your fill of Korean pop culture in Los Angeles, which has the largest Korean population in the United States. Whether you’re looking for cool merch, fan meetups or experiences to bring out your own inner K-pop star, there’s a place for that — and you don’t even need to book a plane ticket to Seoul.
Watch a K-pop concert or Korean film at CGV Cinemas
Want more movies? The Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, operated by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, provides free screenings of contemporary and independent films, film classics, films by Korean American filmmakers and a traveling Korean film series once a month. The cultural center also hosts events and exhibitions designed to educate visitors on Korean culture.
Shop for K-pop albums, light sticks and other merch at K-Pop Nation
Other places to shop for K-pop goods: Choice Music, on the third floor of the Koreatown Galleria, has one of the larger collections of albums available, including those from lesser known groups. Products can be purchased online for pickup at the store. And for those who follow K-pop groups Treasure and BTS, the LINE Store in Hollywood is stocked with their specialty characters — TRUZ and BT21, respectively — as well as popular LINE characters Brown and Cony.
Learn the moves from your favorite K-pop video at Debut Dance District
Debut Dance District instructor Yireh Kim is great at calling out participants both on- and offline, making sure everyone knows the routine by the end of the class. Just don’t be late — Kim keeps a strict schedule and locks the doors during the warmup. Free parking is available in the underground garage.
碍辞谤别补迟辞飞苍’ Rūts Dance Studio, owned by sisters and professional dancers Eileen Kim and Diny Kim, also offers K-pop classes around current K-pop songs and older hits for those feeling nostalgic. Diny Kim, who has danced alongside K-pop artists such as JUN, Hong Jinyoung and Ashley Alisha, created the K-pop program as a way to connect to her Korean heritage and spread the love for Korean music. A point of pride for Diny Kim is that the dances come straight from choreographers in the K-pop industry. “Rūts is a platform to not only provide proper education of the different dance styles in K-pop but also an opportunity to celebrate the people that were involved in creating these viral dances,” she said. Other dance classes offered include hip-hop, whacking and contemporary dance.
Take photo booth pics with your K-pop idols at Life4Cuts
Mike Seok, Life4Cuts USA/Venture2020’s chief marketing officer, said that K-culture isn’t just popular culture but service culture. While the photo booths were created in Korea, “We can bridge that experience here and let it evolve and let it grow,” he said.
Gather with fellow K-pop fans at Hello82 LA meet-and-greets and L.A. cupsleeve events
If you’re looking to meet new friends from your fandom, including ARMY, ATINYs and M.O.A.s, cupsleeve events are another way to go. At tea houses throughout Southern California, fans celebrate their idols by creating special cupsleeves (those strips of cardboard that hug your drinks). Events can be found through various Instagram fan pages, including those of ATEEZ Cafe LA and Magic Hour Cafee. Los Angeles-based BTS ARMY group Oh!DDAENG! has hosted several cupsleeve events and now also puts on album listening parties and dance parties.
“We have formed this amazing network of event hosts and small businesses, many of whom we now consider friends,” says Roxanne Caranto of Oh!DDAENG! “ We truly enjoy being part of this community that welcomes people from all walks of life and radiates positive energy.”
Indulge in the 'K-pop body treatment' at Olympic Spa (or shop for Korean beauty products to try at home)
Century Day & Night Spa offers separate spas for men and women, as well as jim jil bang (unisex spa experiences) for friends and family members to relax together. Beyond offering massages and body scrubs, the spa features a driving range for folks who want to improve their golf swing and even offers swimming lessons. Memberships are available.
If you’d rather buy Korean beauty products to use at home, there are several shops that sell popular brands like Etude House and TONYMOLY. Palace Beauty Galleria, in Koreatown Galleria, offers in-store and online shopping. Pro tip: To make sure you get the sale prices, order online for pickup at the store. If Palace Beauty doesn’t have the product you need, Aritaum AMORE is on the same floor and offers a wide range of Korean skincare and makeup brands like Mamonde, Hanyul and IOPE.
Visit K-pop music video filming locations — IRL in L.A.
If you’re looking to pretend to be in a Stray Kids video and come out with a shiny vehicle, visit Beverly Car Wash in Montebello, seen in the “Case 143” performance video. K-drama fans, particularly those who love Lee Min-ho, probably know that 2013’s “The Heirs” was filmed in parts of Los Angeles and Orange County, including in front of the Capitol Records building and at the Millennium Biltmore.
Release your inner K-pop idol at Shrine Room Karaoke
Korean dishes like dukkboki (rice cakes) and galbi jjim (spicy braised short ribs) can be ordered in any of the 15 nightclub-style rooms. If it’s your birthday, you get a free drink. Parking is valet, but there is street parking in the residential areas nearby.
Audition to become the next K-pop Idol at K-Pop Center at the Source OC
Have a star-studded meal at Soban Los Angeles
If Korean BBQ is more your style, the popular Aghassi Gopchang is the place to be for its roasted beef intestines. It does not take reservations, so expect to wait a while for seating. Many BTS ARMYs have taken a pilgrimage here after BTS’ Jin recommended the place himself.
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