This weekend thousands of fans of Korean pop music, or K-Pop, are descending on Exposition Park in Los Angeles for the 2nd annual KCON.
Part convention, part concert, this event features panels on Korean food, make-up tips from Korean fashion experts, autograph signings and a big, blowout performance. The scheduled acts include G Dragon, EXO, 2 AM and Missy Elliott.
Wait, Missy Elliott?
“It’s not stunt casting, it’s not some weird cameo or anything like that,” said Ted Kim, president and CEO of Mnet America, a cable channel devoted to K-pop and the sponsor of this year's KCON.
Kim said Missy Elliott's appearance grew "organically" from collaborations between her and G Dragon, one of K-Pop's shining stars. Elliott, who hasn't released a new album since 2005's The Cookbook, is rumored to appear on G Dragon's upcoming album.
Bernie Cho is the president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based talent agency for K-Pop artists. In an email interview he said Elliot's appearance was "a surprise, but not a shock."
Korean songs have swept through Asia over the last decade, occasionally outranking the US and Europe on international pop-charts. And it's not just PSY with his 2012 mega-hit "Gangnam Style," Korean pop covers a wide range of artists and styles, from boy bands to rap groups.
Since K-Pop has managed to crack the code of commercial success in Asia, Cho said it makes sense that American stars like Missy Elliott, Will.i.am and Flo Rider have decided to work with Korean artists.
LA based Sony Music producer Bruce 'Automatic' Vanderveer is also part of that trend. He's worked with Pink, the Pussycat Dolls, Christina Aguilera, and this summer, K-Pop crooner Junsu.
Vandeerveer said Korean producers have found a style that resonates world wide.
"Big drums, great synth sounds....You hear real emotion in the singing."
Artistic reasons aside, K-Pop fans do something unusual in this age of iTunes and pirated MP3s.
"The fans buy music. Brick and mortar CDs," Vanderveer said.
21-year old JJ Rodriguez is just that kind of fan. She waited 3 hours to get into KCON this weekend.
Rodriguez buys physical discs from her favorite K-Pop stars rather than downloading the album "to help them with the charts in Korea.” US purchases from digital stores like iTunes don't count toward the pop-charts in other countries.
That kind of devotion may explain why Missy Elliott and so many others are eager to tap into the power of K-Pop.