The unstoppable rise of K-pop over the past decade or more has been the single biggest phenomenon in contemporary music. Seven of the 10 most popular albums sold in the US in 2023 were by Korean artists.
Because of its state-of-the-art concert venues and good transport links to the rest of the Greater Bay Area – a market of 86 million people – Macao is emerging as a favourite destination for touring K-pop acts. So is Hong Kong.
Promoters were able to lure 40,000 fans to two concerts by boy band Seventeen at Macao’s Olympic Sports Centre stadium last weekend (though not without controversy). The popular band Enhypen attracted a total of 32,000 people to their three shows at the Galaxy Arena (even if a fight between audience members marred the group’s second performance).
Neighbouring Hong Kong meanwhile will be the venue for KCon 2024. Arguably the biggest celebration of Korean culture and music, the gathering is a must for any self-respecting K-pop fan and the global festival will kick off with two big-name shows, scheduled on 30 and 31 March.
With so many events scheduled in Macao and Hong Kong over the coming months, there really has never been a better time to be a K-pop fan in the delta. Whether you’re an ardent fan or a newbie, here are some K-pop performances – and meet-and-greets – to keep on your radar.
NCT 127 (3 and 4 February)
The band started out in 2016 as one of several offshoots of the larger group, NCT, which consists of over twenty members. However, it has since come into its own in recent years, winning a South Korean government award in 2019.
“NCT stands for Neo Culture Technology and the 127 stands for the longitude of Seoul,” says Johnny Suh, a member of the group, in an interview. “Our team starts in Seoul, but our music spreads around the world.”
This year, the boy band will be heading to Macao for two concerts on 3 and 4 February as part of a tour that will see them also making stops in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. NCT 127 previously visited Macao in 2017 for a fan meeting and in 2018 as part of a K-Concert event.
Expect the group to perform some of its most iconic songs during their Galaxy Arena shows, including “Kick It,” their 2021 hit that pays tribute to martial arts icon Bruce Lee.
Tickets range from 780 to 1,980 patacas and are available here.
Chanyeol (3 February)
Park Chan-yeol, or simply Chanyeol, is a member of Exo, one of the most recognisable names in the K-pop industry. In the twelve years since its establishment, the group has won over 150 domestic and international awards and an entry in the 2018 Guiness Book of World Records for the most number of grand prizes at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.
As Exo’s lead rapper, Chanyeol is known for his deep vocals and his versatility when it comes to playing instruments, including the piano, guitar and drums. In addition to singing, the 31-year-old has helped compose some of the group’s biggest hits, including the upbeat “Lucky” (2013) and “Love Shot” (2018).
In recent years, Chanyeol has also begun releasing solo songs, beginning with “SSFW” in 2019. Other offerings include “Hand” (2018) and “Yours” (2020), which also features Lee Hi, Changmo and DJ Raiden.
This Saturday, the Exo rapper will be returning to Macao for a fan meeting at Studio City after a five-year absence. While the meet-and-greet format will mean less songs, fans can still expect him to belt out some of his most popular hits, including “Good Enough” (2023).
Tickets from 1,188 patacas are available here.
Yoona (3 February)
Im Yoon-ah or Yoonah, as she is better known to fans, is one of the eight members of the highly popular girl group Girls’ Generation (also known by its Korean initials SNSD), which debuted in 2007. As a second generation K-pop group, SNSD was most active between the late noughties and early 2010s, however, they have made a comeback in recent years, releasing an album, Forever 1, in 2022 after a five-year hiatus.
As one of SNSD’s most popular members, Yoonah is known for her versatility as being not only a singer and dancer, but also an actor, host and model. Her 2022 Korean TV series, Big Mouth, and film Confidential Assignment 2: International (2023), were both well-received, with the latter doing phenomenally well at the Korean box office.
Since 2016, she has also been developing her career as a solo artist, releasing a mini-album called Blossoms, which features her covers of several popular Chinese ballads. However, it was her debut EP, A Walk to Remember, which topped the charts on iTunes in more than ten countries, that solidified her status as a female solo artist to watch out for.
Yoona’s upcoming fan meeting tour will not be her first visit to Macao – she has been to the city before on tour and as a guest at the Macau International Film Festival. Fans attending the event this Saturday at the Macau Convention Centre can expect to see her singing, taking part in games and interacting with audience members.
Tickets start at 699 patacas and can be bought here.
CNblue (13 April)
Formed in 2009, CNblue is a three-member pop-rock band that has come a long way since its early days performing on the streets and in the clubs of Japan.
Its debut Korean album, 2010’s Bluetory, topped the Gaon Album Chart for two consecutive weeks. In subsequent years, the band has continued to sustain its success with both Korean and Japanese studio albums such as Code Name Blue (2012) and Blueming (2016).
[See more: The Hallyu Pop Fest has been cancelled]
After a hiatus, during which band members completed compulsory military service, CNBlue returned with a new album, Pleasures, in 2023.
CNblue plans to make a stop in Macao on 13 April as part of an Asian tour. However, the ticket prices and venue have not yet been finalised.
IU (25 and 26 May)
IU is the stage name of Lee Ji-eun, a K-pop singer who has been on the scene since 2008. IU’s 2010 breakout album, Real, which features the artist’s iconic song “Good Day,” saw her popularity skyrocket. The success of her subsequent albums, Real+ and Last Fantasy in 2011 further solidified her status and earned her the affectionate title of “the Nation’s Little Sister” in the Korean entertainment industry.
Apart from music, IU is also a versatile actor, having starred in TV dramas such as Dream High (2011) where she portrayed an overweight high schooler and Broker (2023), which saw her flexing her acting chops by playing a single mother.
Itzy (10 August)
Itzy has made a name for itself as one of the leading groups in the so-called fourth generation of K-pop girl bands. The five-member group debuted on the K-Pop scene with the catchy 2019 debut single, “Dalla Dalla,” which is themed around the ideas of self-confidence and empowerment. The song clearly struck a chord with listeners, going on to amass 322 million views.
In the years that followed, Itzy has gone from strength to strength, releasing three albums, fourteen singles and nine EPs. Its latest EP, Kill My Doubt, continues exploring the pet theme of resilience through hit songs such as “Cake,” which has gained 76 million views in only 5 months.
In 2024, Itzy will be launching its second world tour and making its way to Hong Kong for the final show on 10 August. Ticket prices have yet to be confirmed for the show, which will be at the AsiaWorld Arena.
Super Junior (September)
Some of the industry veterans that make up Super Junior (SJ) have defied the odds of an ephemeral business and are still going strong, nearly twenty years after their debut in 2005.
The group’s willingness to explore different styles of music over the past 19 years has been credited for its longevity. The 2017 album, Play, for example, is a mix of classic K-pop songs like “Black Suit” and more experimental tracks such as the trilingual “Lo Siento,” which pays homage to Latin pop.
[See more: 10 minutes with Kian Egan of Westlife]
This year, the band will be bringing its classic songs to Hong Kong with a concert in September. Details are scarce at this point, but expect announcements in the coming months. Can’t wait? The spinoff Super Junior L.S.S has a Hong Kong concert on 17 February.
(G)I-dle (date to be confirmed)
The five-member (G)I-dle has been around since 2018 and made a name for itself as one of the few K-pop girl groups that originates its own music. Much of (G)I-dle’s music is written by the member Soyeon, who is responsible for some of their greatest hits, including the frenetic “Lion” (2019) and the rhythmic “Hwaa” (2021).
[See more: 10 questions for Macao music group MFM]
The group is also unafraid to experiment with different genres, with songs that cut across different styles ranging from rap to Latin pop and hip-hop to punk. Last year, (G)I-dle released its first ever English album, Heat. According to group member Minnie, recording the tracks in English was “challenging,” however she noted that it was high time, as the team wanted to “give back and be more connected” to its English-speaking fans.
(G)I-dle is set to make a return to Macao this year following its concert in Galaxy last October. Details about the group’s new show have yet to be announced.