by STEPHANY BAI | NBC ASIAN AMERICA
DALLAS — Joey Abonzo was working as an optician in Dallas when he was first introduced to Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, in 2012.
He had been going through what he called “pretty dark times” when a friend showed him a music video by SHINee, a five-member boy group, for the band’s “RingDingDong.” Abonzo said the upbeat music, intricate choreography, and striking visuals cheered him up. A K-pop neophyte, he started looking for a local community of fans who shared his passion.
“I remember typing in ‘K-pop Dallas’ because I wanted a community where I could relate to people closer to home,” said Abonzo, now 28. “At the time it was just me and my two best friends. I thought that there’s got to be more of us.”
Alonzo discovered Kpop Dallas, then a Facebook page with about 50 followers, according to Lily Tinoco, the group’s founder. The page shared news about artists, announcements of Dallas concerts, and tips on where to find Korean food, beauty products, and K-pop merchandise.
But in the intervening five years, Kpop Dallas’ Facebook page has grown from 50 to more than 6,500. And while they still focus on similar subjects — with the addition of some humor and discussion — the group’s activities have also bled into real life.
In 2013, the group’s growth caught the attention of the Korean Consulate in Dallas, who contacted the group thinking their members were of Korean descent.
“Lily got the phone call,” Abonzo recalled. “She immediately went to the chat and said, ’He’s speaking to me in Korean!’ I guess it was the first conclusion they had come to, that the people in charge of a K-pop fan page must be Korean.”
The consulate wanted to know if Kpop Dallas was interested in helping organize and promote a preliminary round of the K-pop World Festival, a South Korean government-sponsored event that invites international K-pop fans to perform their favorite songs. Winners of regional rounds, held in 71 countries in 2016, have the opportunity to compete at the final event in Changwon, South Korea.
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