Busan One Asia Festival 2023: What’s driving the K-pop festivals?

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Author: Luisa Quintero

K-pop and K-dramas are now an undeniable global phenomenon. However, when it comes to Korean culture beyond the Hallyu Wave, it is notorious that people’s knowledge about it still does not reach the same levels of fanaticism that Korean idols or actors produce. For this reason, year after year, the Korean government implements more and more strategies to bring the new generations closer to the ‘traditional Korea’, and, in this way, to be able to continue promoting one of the main axes of its economy and its main export product: culture.

With this in mind, different events are currently being held in South Korea with the aim of attracting the public already in love with Hallyu content, offering them the opportunity to experience the most traditional Korean culture in greater depth. Also, through these events, the government can boost tourism in specific cities of the country other than its capital, which usually has the highest concentration of tourists.

BOF 2023 tickets. Photograph taken by the author.

Thus, the Busan One Asia Festival (commonly referred to as BOF) took place at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium (the fourth largest stadium in South Korea) on October 21, 2023. Since 2016, this festival has brought together a variety of top-tier K-pop artists while allowing attendees to experience a range of cultural activities in the city of Busan. The festival’s K-pop lineup for its 2023 edition featured nine groups and one solo artist, with NCT 127 serving as the evening’s main attraction.

Audience waiting for the NCT 127 presentation. Photograph taken by the author.

Recognized as one of the biggest Hallyu celebrations in Asia, the event stands out for its extraordinary K-pop performances. However, BOF also consists of a special ‘in the park’¹ concert featuring artists from other genres, a variety of Korean food options, and K-beauty exhibitions, among others. Hence, year after year, with the arrival of BOF, Busan became an ideal environment for cultural exchange and a meeting point for K-pop enthusiasts from all over the world.

The festival originally lasted 23 days and featured performances by artists of various genres from Korea, China, and Japan, as well as an opening and closing ceremony. In addition to concerts, attendees could enjoy attractions such as a gastronomic tour of Busan, cultural conferences, and exhibitions on the latest makeup trends. However, over time and thanks to the rise of K-pop, the festival was reduced to only two days, with a line-up made up mainly of Korean artists, and the accompanying events became experiences that can be enjoyed outside the stadium, just before the main event begins.

Outside the Busan Asiad Main Stadium on the day of the event. Photograph taken by the author.

Even so, the BOF maintains the spirit of promoting Korean culture beyond its mainstream content, so for ticket sales, there is a web portal exclusively for foreigners in which, for the purchase of tickets to the festival, a redeemable ticket for a bus tour of Busan is included. Also, once you arrive at the venue, you can find different booths set up by the Korean government where, by playing a traditional Korean game or answering a survey about your experience as a foreigner in the country, you can win a prize. These prizes range from a pencil to tickets to other cultural attractions in Busan or stuffed animals of Boogi (the official mascot of Busan).

Gift received after conducting a survey for the Korea Tourism Organization. Photograph taken by the author.

Likewise, upon entering the venue where the event takes place, the intention of promoting Busan as a cultural city is notorious, since, while waiting for the artists’ presentations to begin, the event’s presenters give a speech, in Korean and English, about how important it is for South Korea to disseminate its culture. Also, since Busan is currently competing to host World Expo 2030 (the most important international exposition designed to showcase the development achievements of the world’s nations), a promotional video about Busan as a candidate city was played at this year’s BOF, and the entire decoration of the event included the slogan ‘Busan is good’, a phrase with which Busan is being presented to win.

BOF 2023. Photograph taken by the author.

Considering the above, it is possible to affirm that although, superficially, K-pop festivals like BOF seem to be just another event, organized simply for K-popers to enjoy the performances of their favorite artists, in reality, this type of festivals are organized to bring the international public, in a more organic way, closer to the Korean culture, beyond the mainstream. Therefore, in the promotional poster of the BOF, you can see as sponsors of the event entities such as the Korea Tourism Organization or the Busan Tourism Organization, and that the event is 100% ‘foreigner friendly’, from the purchase of tickets to the experience in the city bus tour.

Sea of Japan captured from City Bus Tour. Photograph taken by the author.

Reviewed by: Marisol Montiel


BOF. (2023). BUSAN ONEASIA FESTIVAL 2023. BOF. https://bof.or.kr/

¹Allusion to the well-known rock festival Rock Al Parque, which happens in Simon Bolivar Park in the city of Bogota.

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