Imagine this. It’s around 8:30 pm, vibrant lights in the background, a place full of teenagers dressed in Korean-inspired styles, and everyone dancing to the famous Korean song ‘Gangnam Style’ by Psy.
This was a scene from ‘K-Fest 2023’ arranged by BD K-Family. Even though Korean festivals (K-Fests) are nothing new, yet each time they bring joy much like the first-time experience. The surge in popularity of Korean culture, particularly among the youth of Bangladesh, is undeniable and ‘K-Fest 2023’ was a testament to that fact. The impact of it on Bangladeshi teenagers is evident in their preferences, from K-pop music's immense popularity to a growing fascination with Korean language, skincare, fashion trends, and cuisine; reflecting a dynamic cultural exchange.
The K-Fest, hosted by BD K-Family, took place on 10 November at the Tokyo Square Convention Center, Mohammadpur, Dhaka. Dating back to 2010, the ‘BD K-Family’ as a small regular Facebook group of only 5 members, has steadily grown into a family of thousands. Tashnuva Zahan, the founder, shared insights into the inspiration behind organising the Korean Fest, stating, “Since 2015, our journey in organising Korean-themed events has been steadily evolving, and in 2016, K-Fest was born. My personal passion for K-pop and K-drama drove me to initiate K-meet ups within our community where K-culture fans got to know more people who share the same interests as them. During these gatherings, it became evident that there are many fans who are exceptionally talented. This inspired me to create a platform where these talented individuals could shine. To add excitement, I introduced K-pop competitions, giving rise to K-Fest.”
BD K-Family has been actively promoting South Korean culture and strengthening Bangladeshi and South Korean diplomatic and cultural relationships. They independently organise various events throughout the year, and the South Korean Embassy also collaborates with them on most occasions. The co-founder Tina Zahan is a lawyer by profession, yet no matter how busy she is, she always makes time for promoting Korean culture.
Saiful Islam, the president of BD K-Family said, “When someone is passionate about something, they need others with whom they can connect and share their passion with. And this is the place of all the K-lovers.”
The festival started at 1:30 pm, attracting K-culture enthusiasts from various parts of Dhaka to Tokyo Square for 'K-Fest 2023.' The venue buzzed with enthusiasm as K-drama and K-pop fans engaged in a vibrant exploration of Korean culture. They took part in a wide range of activities, including K-Pop and K-Art competitions, a dedicated Korean Makeup section, merchandise stalls, giveaways, photo booths, Meet & Greet sessions, a Freestyle party, and numerous other exciting events. The event also included stalls selling various K-pop and K-drama merch ranging from key chains, pins, to notebooks, pens, backpacks, toys, etc. There were visitors from age 7 to even 67. Parents accompanied their children, and many brought their cousins, friends and other family members too. The spirited visitors seemed as if they were reunited with their long-lost families.
In the K-pop dance competition segment, many famous groups were seen, such as RENESUS, HEAVEN’S LAW, RAZUKAN KLAN and many more. This time there were so many performers that, for the first time ever, there was a solo winner too. The group team winner HEAVEN’S LAW’s founders Labiba Mumtahinah and Riazul Arefin told Prothom Alo English Online that, “We're not just a dance crew, we're a family of passionate individuals, united through music, martial arts and similar creative interests. Our unique performance with the fusion of dance and martial arts have been turning heads and winning hearts. We've become one of the winners at the K-pop World Festival twice and grabbed the bronze prize at the K-Community Festival 2023, both of which are prestigious international competitions. Our ultimate goal is not only to spread love and happiness through our performances but also to represent Bangladesh globally and make Bangladesh synonymous with talent and creativity. And this is what encourages us to participate in different competitions.”
The performers also expressed their gratitude towards the organisers stating that, “K-Fest is one of the best platforms to showcase our talent and creativity. Here people can express their love for K-culture without a second thought. Thanks to BDK Family for arranging such an amazing event throughout the years where K-lovers from all walks of life come together to showcase their dance, singing, art and other creative talents. The support we receive from this fandom is unrivalled. No one can hype and cheer like this incredible crowd! Their supportive energy and excitement keep us coming back for more, time and time again.”
Jumma Mehjabin Moumita, a 12th grader of Lalmatia Mohila College, shared her memorable experience at 'K-Fest 2023' by saying that, "The event was absolutely amazing, undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2023 for me. My sister and I cherished every moment from the very beginning. The performances were incredibly energetic and filled with enthusiasm. As always, the standout for me was the performance by my favourite team, 'RENESUS.' Moreover, the sponsorship by 'Mr. Noodles' added an extra layer of excitement. There was a friendly competition involving the theme song of 'Mr. Noodles,' where participants showcased their unique dance choreography. It was truly enjoyable to witness."
The founder of BD K-Family, Tashnuva Zahan, said that they did not expect this many people due to the current political unrest. All they want to say is that they glad to see the love and support their community members bring while newer people joining and making this platform bigger here in Bangladesh.
‘K-Fest 2023’ was a unique and cheerful event that reeled with liveliness, ambiance, and music. The energy of K-Random dance play was amazing to see, showing how unknown people become friends. The whole audience just vibes together, following the same choreography.
* Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 12th grader of Dhaka City College who loves animals, taekwondo and Korean culture