A storm of applause from a crowd of hundreds brought down the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) last Friday at the 2013 Cambodia K-POP World Festival – but it wasn’t superstar Psy with his hits Gangnam Style and Gentleman, but Cambodian teenagers competing to show their passion for Korean culture.
Organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Cambodia, the festival, held in the Cambodia Korea Cooperation Centre at RUPP, saw 14 contestants – divided into vocal and performance categories – perform their favourite K-pop songs before a judging panel.
The competition was one of the preliminary rounds of the larger 2013 K-POP World Festival organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea, which is held in 44 countries worldwide.
Cambodia’s winners included a trio of siblings whose dance rendition of Bubble Pop by Korean idol HyunA was met with thunderous applause, and an aspiring singer from Battambang, who took home the vocal award.
They, along with other winners from each country taking part, will advance to the semi-finals.
Videos of their performance will be posted to the competition’s official website and 15 final teams will be selected based on online votes received, number of page views and the evaluation of a panel of judges in Korea.
The chosen teams will then compete in the final round held in Changwon City, South Gyeongsang Province of Korea, on October 20.
“We have witnessed a sharp and steady increase in number of K-pop fan groups around the globe,” said Lee Yoon Seok, both the organiser of the festival and the first secretary of the Korean Embassy in Cambodia.
“They keep calling on us to offer assistance for K-pop events, including those in Cambodia.”
A further purpose of the festival, he added, was to strengthen the strong economic ties and trading volume between the two countries as Korea was the largest investor in Cambodia in 2012.
Both local Cambodians and Koreans turned out on Friday to support the teams.
Hak Pechmolita, 18, a member of the winning dance troupe, Hak Gentryman, said she was “super surprised” to have won, despite her professed addiction to the genre.
“I love the rhythm, the music style and the dance moves of the Korean songs - I am so addicted,” said the student, adding that she listens to K-pop songs hundreds of times a day.
Female solo singer Kheav Sodaroth was awarded the trophy in the vocal category for her rendition of the popular girls group 2NE1’s I Love You.
“I love K-pop and I want to share what I love to more people around the world,” said Sodaroth.
Despite the language barrier, she said that even people who cannot speak the language can still enjoy Korean music.
“Almost everywhere around the world, people listen to the Korean songs, and that is the reason why I like it. It is universal.”
Videos of their performances can be viewed and voted on from September 2 to 22 on the website k-popworldfestival.kbs.co.kr