Come January 15 and 16, Asiana Hotel in Dubai will be abuzz with K-Pop fans looking forward to a special fan meeting and lunch date with Korean entertainer Kangnam.
The artist, whose real name is Namekawa Yasuo, is a member of Korean male hip-hop group M.I.B. and has been active in the South Korean media scene since 2011 with a strong international fan base. But what's driving Middle East fans wild is his latest song, Tell me what, which is a fusion of K-Pop music and Arabic lyrics.
The artist is known for his love for Arab culture and is ready to serenade over 400 fans this weekend, an event made reality by a K-Pop enthusiast, Mariam Al Shehhi, along with friend Ekram Abdulrahman, and founder of The Sehee Company, Sehee Lee.
By day, Mariam is a competency development officer for a gas company in Abu Dhabi, but after work hours, she takes on the role of an events organiser with an aim to bridge the gap between Korean pop culture and its fans in the UAE. The 29-year-old Emirati first fell in love with all things Korean about 10 years ago. Since then, she has sought opportunities to get involved in related activities to spread the love.
"I started with a blog called 'UAEKorea' where people could find information ranging from events to supermarkets with Korean products. Then I began volunteering; one of the first events I took part in was a culture fair organised by the Korean embassy. I now run a business called Nabi Edition where I plan to offer Korean fabrics soon," she says.
Mariam explains that a number of social obstacles stand in the way for many Emirati female fans, which is why they are unable to travel to South Korea for K-Pop concert experiences often organised by the official Korean Tourism Organisation.
This has fuelled her passion to bring artists to the UAE instead, taking on the challenge of gathering Korean and Emirati sponsors to give rise to events such as the Kangnam fan meeting.
Sook Chun Jung, Director of PR and Events at the Korean Business Council Dubai who is one of the title sponsors of the weekend event, acknowledges the K-Pop phenomenon in the UAE.
"As a council, we support cultural events in the UAE. We are also planning to organise Korean culture and Hallyu-related events soon," she added.
Sook previously organised the UAE's first K-Pop showcase and fan meeting with ZE:A in 2012.
By Farhana Chowdhury
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