With South Korea opening up and steadily recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, social life and entertainment opportunities are re-appearing all over Seoul. One of the things that you can anticipate coming to Seoul is 'busking' - street performances, which usually take place just 5 minutes away from Hongdae Subway station - the heart of nightlife and a hotspot for any young person in Seoul.
If you walk around Hongdae from 6 pm on, you will be able to see the spectacular performances of dancing or singing groups that arguably look just as professional as real K-pop groups.
Usually, you would see girl and boy groups covering K-pop choreographies, or some groups singing beloved K-dramas OSTs. And they gather quite an impressive audience - sometimes it’s even hard to get around the area without waiting in a line of devoted fans and casual onlookers. Hongdae busking spots are so popular that even some of the renowned K-pop groups and singers have actually performed there themselves (for instance, G-IDLE):
However, performing in Hongdae is not as easy, as the majority of people would imagine. For the western audience, street performances might seem like a seamless gig that anyone with some spare time and a bit of skill can do. In South Korea, though, it is a bit more complicated: you have to compete for the performance spot and time a month ahead, and due to the fierce competition your chances of securing the spot might be better off if you join an already established group if you are a newbie.
Be it due to the rising interest in experiencing K-pop culture first-hand, the intensity of the more mainstream K-pop scene, or just the outstanding creative potential of South Korean residents, busking has been getting bigger every year. At this point, a lot of groups that are performing in Hongdae also go to hold concerts in China, Japan, and even Europe! Even some of the K-pop idols have started off by performing as buskers first (for instance, Kim Dong Han):
But of course, not all of the busking performers are chasing after the stardom dream of someday debuting in a K-pop group: some of them just enjoy the small but extremely dynamic and unpredictable scene of Hongdae streets. And some of the groups have been performing around Hongdae for years at this point, and it shows in their performances!
So, busking for Korean performers serves as a means of income - people would usually tip at the end of the performances; a chance to build their fanbase and a name for themselves in the entertainment industry; an opportunity to gain some valuable experience in reforming in front of the public. But whatever the reason is, busking definitely adds a unique atmosphere to Hongdae and lightens its streets every night with flawless performances! What would you choose: go to one professional K-pop concert or watch a great number of diverse groups in one place for free? Let us know if you have been to a busking performance yourself or if you would like to go at some point!