SAITAMA, JAPAN —
Thousands of fans turned out near Tokyo to see their favorite "K-pop" stars in a display of how popular South Korean pop music is in Japan despite years of chilled relations between the two countries.
Groups such as INFINITE, Block B, GOT7, Supernova and SISTAR were among those performing at the indoor Saitama Super Arena at the "M Countdown" concert.
Organizers expanded the musical event into a cultural and economic exhibition, with dozens of South Korean companies setting up booths to showcase food and other products outside the concert venue Wednesday evening.
"I think they really care about us. I can feel it," Supernova fan Koyori Watanabe, 30, said of the K-pop stars.
Korean pop has made major strides in the Japanese music market, the world's second largest after the United States, in the last five years.
The structure of South Korea's relatively small music market means the singers, known for their young, cool image and distinct dance choreography, search for success abroad.
FILE - South Korean rapper Psy performs during a public screening before the 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match between South Korea and Russia, in Seoul June 18, 2014.
Rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style," which became a global YouTube hit in 2012, fueled international interest in other Korean singers, who want to follow him onto the mainstream pop scene.
"We've been since our debut conveying a very clear character that is energetic, healthy and relentlessly vigorous. We want to stick to that," Dasom, of the dancing SISTAR girl group, told Reuters.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have cooled over what South Korea sees as Japanese leaders' reluctance to atone fully for their country's colonial wartime past.