Karaoke is supposed to be fun. It’s a release. You can turn off your brain after work. You can embrace the cheesiness of the radio hits of your youth. You can relax in a comfortable, low stakes environment where earnestness and ridiculousness merit equal respect.
But what if your upcoming karaoke hang is a competition — and you’re in it to win it?
This Sunday (July 16) from 2 to 4 p.m., the L.A. Times and Radio Korea will co-host a street karaoke competition in Koreatown Plaza. The concept of street karaoke was popularized in Korea, when BJ, broadcast jockey, Lee Changhyun started livestreaming his karaoke show on the streets of Hongdae, a neighborhood of Seoul known for its arts and youth culture. He’d recruit participants from random passersby, a crowd would gather behind to watch and online viewers could also comment in real time.
Radio Korea, the L.A.-based Korean-language station, has been hosting street karaoke events in Koreatown and Buena Park since 2019. In the past, the laid-back community gatherings attracted a multigenerational crowd.
If you go
What: Radio Korea and L.A. Times Street Karaoke and K-Dance Competition
When: Sunday, July 16, noon to 6 p.m.; karaoke competition from 2 to 4 p.m., dance competition from 4 to 6 p.m.
Where: Koreatown Plaza, 928 S Western Ave., Los Angeles
Cost: Free; parking is $10. (Carpooling, public transit or rideshare recommended.)
The bilingual event, in Korean and English, is the first time that a Radio Korea street karaoke event will be a competition.
You can sign up on the Radio Korea website, but slots will be saved for those who come on-site, first-come, first-serve. Radio Korea’s director of content, Young Kim (a member of two K-pop bands in the late ’90s, S#arp and UpTown) will host, and staffers from the Los Angeles Times will warm up the crowd before the contest.
The prizes are no joke. The champion wins an Air Premia airline ticket, plus $700. Second place is a $500 cash prize, and third is $300. And all three winners get a one-year digital subscription to the Los Angeles Times. The audience will vote, but the final winners will be determined by a panel of judges — including L.A. Times Asian American communities reporter (and regular Radio Korea guest) Jeong Park.
So what should your strategy be for a karaoke competition like this? The Times asked Kim — and champions from the L.A. Karaoke League — for tips on approaching a fun contest with serious strategy.