Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris was bristling with K-pop fans on Wednesday afternoon (local time) as they waited for precious glimpses of their idols, ahead of the first-ever live K-pop concert in Europe scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Around 1,000 autograph-hungry fans crowded in front of Gate E at the airport's second terminal, jostling for space and calling out the names of various dance group members who were due to arrive aboard a Korean Air flight. The big names included TVXQ, SHINee and f(x), managed by SM Entertainment. Girls' Generation arrived in the fabled city of romance one day earlier.
The hype machine for the concert, which was originally planned as a one-day affair, got off to such a promising start that all 7,000 tickets were sold out within the first 15 minutes of being made available. This prompted an ad-hoc protest in front of the Louvre on May 1 by a group of 300 K-pop fans, causing SM Entertainment to extend the concert to a second day.
Most of the fans waiting at the airport on Wednesday were teenage girls, but even middle-aged adults could be spotted among the crowds. The fans, who waited more than two-and-a-half hours for their stars to walk out of the gate, showed no signs of boredom, singing their favorite Korean songs and creating a party-like atmosphere.
"We expected around 300 fans, but we were surprised to see many more at the airport," said Maxim Pake, head of Korea Connection, a Korean culture fan club in France.
Alarmed by the passionate nature of the fans, French airport police mobilized 20 officers to escort the stars from the arrival gate to the parking lot, where they were whisked on to buses. Fans shouted out the names of their heroes as they walked out of the arrival gate at around 7:30 p.m.
French media have been paying close attention to the K-pop concert. The daily Le Figaro ran a story on Thursday about how it was extended following the protest.
"K-pop warriors have begun conquering Europe after taking over Asia. Paris has become the beachhead for K-pop's advance into Europe," it reported.