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K-pop star Kang Daniel’s India trip was a Prasar Bharati love affair, in age of social media

While several K-pop bands have performed in India in the last decade, the 2019 visit by KARD was the only epochal moment. Until Kang Daniel landed at Delhi's Siri Fort auditorium.

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When K-pop star Kang Daniel was leaving South Korea for his India trip last Friday morning, fans and media had flocked to Incheon airport to see him off, but mostly to take pictures – an indispensable routine for any A-league Korean popstar. And then for the next 48 hours, Daniel vanished in thin air.

No camera flashes were waiting at the New Delhi airport after his eight-hour flight, which had landed a little early that evening. Although three die-hard fans turned up to catch a glimpse of him, their dearth of experience in dealing with K-pop idols’ airport appearances showed up as they had no clue about the VIP exit and missed out on seeing the 25-year-old puppy-faced singer. For the next two days, Daniel barely posted anything on social media, nor were there any instances of fan-spotting. He finally resurfaced on Sunday evening to perform his song, Parade, at a festival in the capital.

Kang Daniel was part of a delegation of the South Korean state broadcaster, KBS or Korean Broadcasting Station, visiting Delhi for a broadcasting union’s gathering. It was the confluence of such circumstances that led to the vocalist’s fateful visit to India, which preceded no big announcement, no grand media coverage and no press interaction by Daniel. The shy and introverted singer quietly came, enthralled the audience and silently flew off to his next schedule in Japan.

But can one truly be a star, more so an A-list K-pop star, if there aren’t desperate eyes that want to see them?

Despite all the attempts to strip his visit of fanfare and keep it lowkey, sources at Prasar Bharati said that bringing Daniel from his hotel to the performance venue was a challenge they didn’t see coming. They had to change his car and take detours to dodge fans who had found out about the car he was travelling in.

Also read: Buying K-pop merchandise in India is a horror tale. Customs delay, fake Instagram sellers

Prasar Bharati – the unsung hero

It was inevitable for Prasar Bharti to be acquainted with the immensity of K-pop artists and their fan culture as long as KBS was attending the festival. South Korea’s state broadcaster has been bringing with it the loftiest names in the K-pop industry. Last year, it was the K-pop girl group ITZY. In 2020, Taemin performed in the festival that was held virtually and the year before that, it was the widely popular girl group TWICE.

While India can boast of several K-pop bands performing in the country in the last decade, the 2019 visit by the band KARD was the only epochal moment when it came to big names. Until Kang Daniel dethroned the record by performing at New Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium last week– all thanks to an event that involved India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati – the parent body of Doordarshan and All India Radio.

Doordarshan was one of the earliest channels in India to show K-dramas on Indian television, way before the internet revolution fuelled the popularity of K-dramas and K-pop around the world. Historical TV dramas such as Emperor of the Seas and Jewel in the Palace were aired on Doordarshan channels in the mid-2000s. Today, the platform is eons away from the universe of Indian K-pop fans who access their content mostly through social media or the countless apps that exist only for idol-fan interactions.

Kang Daniel during a brief interaction after his performance | Photo: Twitter

But in an ironic twist of fate, it was Prasar Bharati at the forefront of a series of combinations that led to Kang Daniel performing in India.

As the charming singer took to the stage at 8:30 pm on Sunday, he received the loudest cheers among all the performers.

K-pop fans had managed to infiltrate the crowd, which was made up of mostly senior officials participating in a six-day gathering of the 59th Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) a cluster of state public broadcasters with members in over 67 countries – and invited guests only. Delhi was the host for ABU’s general and associated meetings this year and by default the venue for the Union’s TV Song festival – an annual non-competitive music event that usually takes place during the ABU general assembly. Though the gala happens in front of a live audience, it’s also recorded for telecast by the participating ABU members. 

Also read: After K-pop, K-drama, K-food, Indian fans are now getting married the Korean way

‘Let’s go together (to Korea)’ 

The anchors of the show, surprised by the audience’s reaction, threw a volley of questions at Daniel after his three-minute song and dance performance. Fans got to see the soft-spoken man send them heart gestures and talk about his song, his latest album ‘The Story Retold’ and his ongoing world tour.

“The message I want to convey through this song is when people feel burnt-out while working, let’s step out of that situation for a bit and try to have some fun,” said Daniel, who shot to fame as the winner of a survival music show ‘Produce 101’ and later as a member of the now-disbanded K-pop group ‘Wanna One’, which was born out of the programme.

The onstage interaction lasted longer than the time he spent performing on stage as the host squeezed another answer out of him on ‘one thing really interesting about Korea’.

“First, people have a lot of affection, they are sincere and have good manners. Korea feels like a country with warm feelings and there are lots of places to see as well. So, please do visit,” he said.

Daniel was left flustered when fans responded in Korean saying, ‘Let’s go together’.

At the end of the event, he hummed a few lines from the Hindi song ‘Mera piya ghar aaya’.

Also read: Sriya as a K-pop idol is no fluke. A well-oiled industry is hunting for Indian stars

How to hijack a fest

Daniel’s performance might have been barely three minutes long but in the backdrop, there was elaborate stage rehearsal. With the K-pop star going mute since his arrival in India, fans were tracking the socials of his backup dancers and co-performers and managed to get hold of a rehearsal video.

That’s not all. A show that was closed to private media channels and meant primarily for ABU members mutated to include all quintessential K-pop concert elements – fans live streaming from the venue and posting pictures in real-time on Twitter.

Some fans saw him Monday afternoon at the Korean Cultural Center at  Lajpat Nagar. Kang Daniel left India in the evening.

Also read: You go in for pop culture, but stay for the language—why Korean is India’s new favourite

Legos or waiting rooms

On Sunday, tiny white makeshift compartments had popped up backstage, inside a corridor of the Siri Fort auditorium. Beyond the opaque, doorless cabin, artists from nine countries were to get ready to perform on stage in a couple of hours.

Placed one after the other like Legos, the area has an eerie silence uncharacteristic of a greenroom vibe. It was hard to tell if there were people behind the curtains covering the temporary spaces.

But one Legos box was hard to miss, even from a distance. Two towering bouncers stood outside it, two women sat next to them and from beyond a black veil, one could hear a cacophony of noises emitting from the roofless box. A paper slapped on a wall of the structure read ‘Korea’.

The voices were from the A-league K-pop star and his backup dancers from the group ‘We Dem Boyz’.

They were all getting ready for their performance – a blip in their exhaustive, jet-packed timeline but a watershed moment for India whose fans got a taste of one of the premium K-pop acts out there, and that too for free.

(Edited by Prashant)

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