By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Virtual Hangout
with Park Jinyoung
June 19, 7 p.m.

WITH the continuing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it will take time before the Korean pop scene will return to what it used to be.

In Seoul, live audiences are no longer allowed in music shows. Concerts are now staged online as rubbing elbows in a packed performance venue will undoubtedly heighten the risk of virus transmission. Even fan meetings are now being held virtually.

These online K-pop events are not even half of the cost of what producers normally charge. If a fan is lucky, these could even be shown for free in exchange for the expected heavy commercial endorsements. The shows do not burn big holes in the fans’ pockets, but admittedly, these are not as much fun as the live versions.

But everyone has to adjust to the so-called new normal.

And in the case of fan meetings, loyal followers of K-pop idols will just have to resort to their vivid imagination and can only hope that their feelings are transmitted through their computer or mobile phone cameras.

Last Friday, fans of Korean band GOT7 received a treat from Globe Telecom when it brought in one of its members, Park Jinyoung, for a “virtual hangout.”

Mr. Park is one of the GOT7 members with a thriving solo career on the side. His latest drama show on tvN, When My Love Blooms, just finished its run on June 14. He received positive reviews for the series, where he plays the younger version of the lead character, Han Jae Hyun. He also released his solo photo book, Hear Here, on June 18, making last week very busy for the 25-year-old Park.

When asked how he is able to connect with GOT7’s fandom, the Ahgases, amidst the pandemic the singer-actor said technology is a huge help.

“I used to ‘see’ my fans through my dramas and since my last one has ended, I was worried that I would not be able to ‘see’ them. But with Kmmunity PH, I am happy to be given this opportunity to see them,” he said, through an interpreter, adding that he and his agency, JYP Entertainment, are carefully considering offers for his next project.

Kmmunity PH is an online group created by Globe for its subscribers and customers to be able to continue to bring K-pop fun despite the limitations brought about by the COVID-19.

As in the usual fan meeting, there was a Question & Answer portion, some games, and even a short live performance. Mr. Park chose to sing an English piece, perhaps to better connect with the Filipino audience. His version of Justin Bieber’s “Changes” definitely excited the viewers. Six contestants were picked for the “Guess That Scene” and “Get To Know More of Jinyoung” games. Before the close, a fan-made video for the Korean star was also shown.

The one-hour virtual hangout was shown live on Facebook, but over 100 selected fans were invited to have a brief Zoom meeting with Mr. Park after the main event. These fans clinched their slots by joining contests prior to the online fan meet.

It was less than an hour with the GOT7 member but for fans left hanging by the global health crisis, it was an hour well spent.

Those who spent the additional few minutes with the artist for an “online photo opportunity” were luckier. True, there was no eye-to-eye contact or even a high five on the side but Mr. Park indulged the winners with some cute poses. These should have satisfied their K-pop cravings — at least until face-to-face fan meetings are again permitted.

As host Kring Kim said, online fan meetings at least allow all their followers to be “front and center” of the action. Everyone was on equal footing and there was no need to jockey for position in front of the stage.

Globe has scheduled more online K-pop events including a seven-day concert series between June 20 and 26 featuring 32 K-pop groups including Monsta X, N.Flying, Mamamoo, GFriend, Astro and Stray Kids.

No meet-and-greets are included in the package and enthusiasts will have to content themselves with vicariously experiencing it with other fanatics.