A crowd of mostly Saudi Arabian fans screaming lyrics in Korean at the top of their lungs, while waving blue glowsticks – this was the scene at King Abdullah Sports City on Friday night as Super Junior performed in Jeddah.
They were the first major K-Pop band to perform in Saudi Arabia, and the demand for South Korean pop is clearly strong in the Kingdom: tickets sold out in just a few hours, even though the show was only announced 10 days before the band performed.
Super Junior's fandom are called the ELFs (which stands for Ever Lasting Friends), and it's clear there are plenty of ELFs in Saudi Arabia. In this video, you can see fans singing along to the band's Korean lyrics:
Here are pictures from the show shared by the band itself:
This moment was probably one of the most tweeted about, with 36-year-old band member Heechul declaring his love for the Kingdom:
The band then started chanting 'a salaam alaikum':
You can see in this video that the band communicated with the crowd via a translator, however there is a trend in the GCC of people, particularly young women, learning Korean, so there were likely some fans that didn't need the translation:
Sapphire blue is the band's signature colour (many of their songs sing about the colour), and painting the stadium in that colour is a way for their fans to show appreciation:
This video, taken away from the show, exemplifies quite how intense the fan's adoring screams were:
Scroll through these photos to see the snaps of the concert shared by the band themselves:
Research from UAE University explored the connection young Emirati fans have with all things K-Pop, and it's likely a similar scenario in Saudi Arabia.
Urwa Tariq, a doctoral student at UAE University, completed a study called Say Hello to the Hallyu Phenomena in the UAE and, as Tariq says, what began with television and K-pop has grown into an "obsession". The word Hallyu refers to the rise of South Korean culture across the world.
“The Korean wave is thriving in the UAE and it seems to fill the void, which the western industry fails to do. The Emirati women learnt to love Korea. They feel that Emirati and Korean cultures share common grounds.
"In both cultures, poetry, romance, social relationships and friendships are highly valued, especially by women. Therefore, this gratifies the young Emirati females that they are still in touch with their culture, regardless of it being foreign. The Emirati fans are not mindless zealots of Korean culture – instead, they are cultural agents struggling with complex identities. South Korean culture evokes escapism to an idealistic world to which they can relate to, psychologically and culturally. This indicates that the young Emirati females' cognition of the Hallyu is conscious rather than passive," she says. You can read more about her study here.