The most wonderful time of the year for everyone is the holiday season of Christmas and New Year. This is the same case for K-pop (as well as K-Drama/K-Variety) fans as the holiday season means the season for year-end award shows where all idol groups/actors/entertainers gather, provide us with breathtaking (and oftentimes surprising) performances, and get awarded for their performances for the year.
This is also probably the reason I choose to travel to Korea at the end of the year (despite the dreadful cold weather of the winter season). I have been attending/watching these award shows for three years now, ever since I was an exchange student in Korea University last 2014. So for all fans who are planning to visit Korea and want to see Korean artists, I recommend you to watch the year-end awards (if you don’t have tickets, you may just watch the Red Carpet instead) instead of buying concert tickets for just one idol group. Plus, they’re free.
I couldn’t find any other information online on how these events happen (I believe there isn’t one even until now so I decided to post one hehe) so I just went to the venue (which was the 2014 MBC Drama Awards) without any idea at all what to do. And I was so shocked at how close I was to so many A-List actors and actresses as I watched them trot down the red carpet, greet us fans at the sidelines, and pose for the various journalists there to take their pictures.
So, to help out you fans out there, I have decided to compile my know-how in attending these events.
What are the Year-End Award Shows?
True to its name, these shows happen at the end of the year usually between December 21 to December 31. The three major broadcasting companies (SBS, MBC, and SBS) each host the three kinds of award shows: Music Awards/Festival (for idol groups and musicians), Drama Awards (for actors and actresses), and Entertainment Awards (for variety shows, comedians, and entertainers).
SBS has recently created the SBS Awards Festival (SAF) which happens for an entire week while the three award shows happen. Fans can take part in the SAF (through a lottery which I was lucky to get picked to attend last 2015) where you can participate in the booths of every SBS program, join games and experience being in the program, and win special prizes (like autographed CDs or tickets for the award shows). There are also live performances of K-pop singers for each day of the festival, the day I went I got to see performances of Ben and Rose Motel. Fans (Korean and International) may apply in SBS’s website (around November) to have a chance to get in the festival.
GUIDE TO WATCHING THE RED CARPET
- Find the details of the award shows online
The first thing you need is to research when and where the award shows will take place. Usually, the details go out as early as November that year to as late as the first week of December. What I do is I simply google the name of the broadcasting company, the certain award show I want to watch, and the year (example: KBS Music Awards 2017). Luckily, these details are readily available because of fan cafes/blogs who post them as soon as the broadcasting companies release the details.You may also visit each of the broadcasting companies’ websites (I have provided the links for you, just click on each of them): SBS, KBS, MBC. They usually make a big banner on their websites for the award shows indicating the date and venue, but you would need to be able to read Korean for this. SBS, however, has an English option in their website to cater to their international viewers, and like I said earlier, visit their website by November and apply for the lottery to get in the SBS Awards Festival.
Prioritize which events to go to
The downside for these events is that they usually coincide with each other. And the events are far away from each other so you won’t be able to attend one and run to the next one. So after confirming the details, you would have to choose which artists you would really like to see.
TIP: The red carpet for the Drama Awards are usually the closest to the fans, you get to see (and somewhat interact) with the actors and actresses more closely than you will with K-pop idols in the Music Awards.
- Go to the event early
The shows usually start at 8PM (Korean time), meaning the show gets broadcasted live by that time. And since the show starts with the red carpet, the artists also arrive around that time. Some artists even arrive earlier (like around 30 mins before the start of the show). So in order to have enough time to look around the red carpet venue (or find tickets to get inside, too), and find the best position to stay in, you really need to arrive early. You would also need enough time to find the actual venue if you aren’t familiar with the location yet.
Arrive at least 3 hours (but the earlier the better), find the best location, and standby until the start of the event.
- Wear high heels or bring a stool
I cannot stress this enough. Korean fans do not just arrive early, they are also very much prepared. Imagine my shock when I first started watching a concert in Korea: I was on the 4th row standing and thought I had a pretty good view when the fans in front of me started bringing out their stools and became a foot taller than they were (which was already tall to begin with). So if you’re not that blessed with tall genes, you have to do everything you can to make yourself taller and have better view.Do note though that if you’re already in front, you don’t have to do this because it would just make the people behind you suffer. And I warn you, Korean fans are not afraid to shout at you lmao they even shouted at the reporters (who were just doing their jobs to take pictures of the artists) because they were blocking their view of the oppas.
- Bring a monopod/selfie stick, and extra battery pack (or powerbank)
Let’s say you arrived to the event late, and you can’t see anything aside from the back of the heads of the fans in front of you. The best way you’d be able to see (and capture) whatever is happening in the red carpet is to watch it from your phone or camera, which you’ll only be able to effectively do through the help of a monopod or selfie stick. If you don’t have one, you may purchase one in Korea for 10,000 won or less; it’s everywhere from Myeongdong to Hongdae to every Daiso out there.Also, do note that in the red carpet, the artists usually don’t arrive right after each other. Therefore, expect to idle moments where you have to wait for the next artist to arrive. So through the help of a selfie stick with your phone in the air, you’d get to rest your hands and anticipate if the next artist has already arrived. Don’t forget to bring an extra batter pack as well or a powerbank because I’m pretty sure your phone and camera would be drained of its battery with all the waiting you have to do.
- Be ready to get pushed (A LOT)
Like I have been continuously stressing, Korean fans could get really wild. I can’t count how many times I have been pushed and stepped on (my foot, I mean) by Korean fangirls during concerts and events like these. This is the why whenever I attend concerts in my home country, I tend to be in the very front row as I have already been prepared to fight from the wildest fans out there lmao.But yes, be prepare yourself physically and mentally for this, especially if you’re in a place with a good view. The fans would push you to be in your current position, but no matter what happens, do your best to stay in your place (and don’t be afraid to push back, slightly though so as to avoid a fight from ensuing). I actually almost got into a fight when I was watching the red carpet of the 2015 SBS Drama Awards: these Korean highschool girls kept on pushing me but I refrained to be pushed (lol because dude no one can stop me from seeing Yoo Ah In) so they started shouting at me in Korean. But I pretended I couldn’t understand them and started speaking English instead. With that, they stopped talking to me and kept on cursing me quietly instead (which I understood but oh well hahaha).
- Choose your place carefully
This is the reason you have to arrive to the event early. You have to consider a lot of aspects in choosing where to stay in watching the red carpet. You may opt to go outdoors (usually by the entrance of the building location): a pro for this is you get to see the artists go out of their cars and see them longer than when you are inside, however, you would have to endure the cold weather. This is usually the case for MBC and KBS Drama Awards as these shows are held in the building of the respective broadcasting companies they belong to, so fans can only watch the red carpet outside and wouldn’t be able to get in. The best I have been to is the 2014 KBS Drama Awards Red Carpet because of the wide area outside the KBS building (yes, the one with a lot of stairs you see in the opening of 1N2D), so I was able to run from the red carpet entrance to the place where the artists get interviewed by the reporters, and back.As for SBS, all three of its award shows (and even the SBS Awards Festival) usually get held at COEX Mall in Gangnam which is a big mall and convention hall. Here, you may opt to stay indoors instead of waiting outside the mall entrance. Inside, there are three places you may choose to be in: the left side of the actual red carpet, the right side, and the side where the artists get interviewed.On 2015, I have been staying on the left side and I actually had very good view but I kept on thinking how the fans from the right side have better view especially the ones who are on the side of the interview section. When I watched the 2016 SBS Music Awards, I decided to stay on the side of the interview section but it was a bad idea because although I was on the 2nd row, I ended up not seeing anything (same as all the other fans who were with me) because the journalists (who even had ladders and stool prepared) appeared and blocked our entire view. Good thing I was able to transfer immediately to the right side of the red carpet before the major artists arrive. So when choosing your place, take this into consideration.
GUIDE TO ACTUALLY WATCHING AN AWARD SHOW LIVE
Applying for or buying a ticket
Music Awards are the easiest shows to get in to, actually I’ve only been to these shows so far. This is because Drama and Entertainment Shows are more intimate and formal (as you can see with the lack of fans’ shouts and cheers in these shows) than the Music Award shows. MBC, KBS, and SBS usually post signups of tickets for the Award Shows for fans on their websites but you would need the help of a Korean friend for this because: first, it is written purely in Korean (except SBS who has a foreigner-friendly option), and more importantly, you need to have a Korean phone number/address. Also, do note that there is a really small chance in getting picked because of the large amount of fans that sign up every year.
So your last retort is to buy from scalpers. You may search who are selling online beforehand through Twitter by searching #양도표 (which literally means “giving away a ticket”) and making a tweet with the name of the award shows. This was my tweet last December for the 2016 SBS Music Awards because I was this desperate to watch BigBang and SECHSKIES live lol:
— iScaredOfCockroach (@j9anne) December 16, 2016
But you would need to negotiate in Korean for this since you would be talking with Koreans, and you’re not sure if you’re talking to a scammer or not. Some people actually messaged me and were selling me tickets for 400,000 to 700,000 KRW (400 to 700 USD) which is a crazy price for tickets that they got for free in the first place.
If you really want to watch an event, I suggest you to go early to the event location instead and wait for the scalpers to appear. Usually, scalpers are scattered (literally, some would sell discreetly and some sell the tickets right in front of the guards) outside the event venue during the day itself. Prices are within 50,000 to 100,000 KRW (50~100 USD), which I wouldn’t mind paying to be honest because you’d get to see at least 10 artists perform anyway. My friends and I actually got our tickets for the 2015 KBS Music Awards from a scalper outside the event for 50,000 KRW each. And yes, they approach foreigners with a higher price. So I suggest you to bring a Korean friend, or if you don’t have one, wear a mask. Or just do anything to conceal your being a foreigner and speak confidently in Korean.
So that’s it for now! If you have further questions (like what to say to scalpers and other important stuff), don’t hesitate to comment them below and I’ll do my best to be of help! 🙂