Korean rock

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Korean rock (Hangul: 한국의 록) is rock music from South Korea.[1] It has roots in American rock, which was imported to South Korea by U.S. soldiers fighting in the Korean War[2][3] and stationing in U.S. military base in South Korea after the war. Around the U.S. military base, local musicians could have opportunities to learn American rock music and perform it on the stage for U.S. soldiers. As the result, many Korean rock bands, called Vocal Band or Group Sound, could start their musical career in 1960s. Under the military administration in 1970s, rock music and its subculture were classified as a depraved youth culture and restricted. After the Korean Fifth Republic, the censorship policies under military government had been abolished and rock music became a mainstream genre in South Korea until end of 1980s. Today, rock music is not a main genre in the music market in South Korea, but it still occupies a big portion of music consumption in South Korea.



Rock music was brought to South Korea in 1950 by U.S. soldiers fighting in the Korean War. After the war ended in 1953, many U.S. soldiers remained in South Korea, stationed on military bases, where local musicians and singers performed.[2] In 1957, South Korea's first rock guitarist Shin Jung-hyeon, debuted on a U.S. military base. Shin Jung-hyeon, who came to be known as South Korea's "Godfather of rock," later said that Korean rock was born on U.S. military bases.[4] One girl group called Kim Sisters debuted on the U.S. military base stage, had practiced their talent and skills, and then started their musical career in United States.


In 1962, Shin Jung-hyeon formed the first Korean rock band, Add4.[4] Soon after, other Korean rock bands, referred to as "Group Sound" musicians, emerged, including HE6, K'okkiri Brothers, and Key Boys, who are best known for their hit song, "Let's Go to the Beach."[5] The group sound musicians of the mid-1960s were heavily influenced by American and British rock from the same era. However, instead of performing exclusively on U.S. military bases, they began to perform for South Korean audiences.[6] The first generation of Korean rock musicians, including Shin Jung-hyeon, started to appear in the 1960s. However, South Korea was suffering from totalitarian military dictatorship and the social atmosphere under Park Chung-hee administration, which was still conservative and closed, hippie culture and rock music, which were representative of youth culture, were merely a target of suppression. In the 1960s, while western countries and Japan were overwhelmed by a new youth culture revolution with rock music, South Korea was far from the fad[7].


During the 1970s, music was heavily censored by the Park Chung-hee administration. Shin Jung-hyun was imprisoned on drug charges. Han Dae-soo moved to New York in self-exile after two of his albums were banned by the government. The imprisonment of Shin Jung-hyeon slowed the production of Korean rock[7], but other artists, most notably Sanulrim emerged during the late 1970s, before dance music came to dominate Korean popular music in the 1980s. Nonetheless, since the 1970s, with the spread of phonograph to middle-class families, the distribution of pirated foreign music, and the popularity of playing rock and pop music in music cafe[6], the number of rock music fans has increased and the foundation of rock music culture has begun to grow. Although there were far more opportunities to listen to western original rock music, the government's censorship was still strict, preventing creative activities from being free.


In the 1980s, popular musical tastes had moved away from rock music. The scene was dominated by heavy metal music, in particular Boohwal, Baekdoosan, and Sinawe, collectively known as the Big 3.[8] The young generation of South Korea who grew up listening to rock music in the early '70s became college students or adults and became the main members of the rock called Group Sound, which led to the craze in the '80s. In 1980, the hard rock band Magma came out at the college song festival and shocked people. Hard rock and heavy metal are also gaining attention in Korea due to the appearance of Magma. Since then, Baekdusan, Boohwal and Sinawe, the bands that represent the 1980s, were also called the Korean Rock Band Trio in the 80s. The song festival also attracted attention from rock bands that would succeed Magma, T-sams in 1987 and Infinite Track in 1988. The 1980s was when rock music came closest to the mainstream of Korean pop music, with rock bands often being at the top of music ranking programs aired by public television and radio. In the 1980s, one of the reasons rock music became more popular than the past was that censorship got somewhat eased compared to the Park Chung-hee administration.

1990s - Now:[edit]

Rock music was revived in the early 1990s with democratization following the presidency of Roh Tae-woo. As information flowed more freely into the country, Korean youths were exposed to decades of popular foreign music in a short span of time, and some began to form bands.[9] Two of the earliest bands were Crying Nut and No Brain, which introduced the country to a variety of new genres in a localized blend called "Chosun Punk," spearheaded by indie label Drug Records which also managed Club Drug. With increased globalization and access to the Internet, the music scene diversified and incorporated more styles of music. The late 1990s saw increasing diversity in musical influences, as younger bands like Rux emerged and The Geeks introduced Korea to straight edge hardcore punk. Ska-punk was another strong early influence, producing bands including Lazybone and Beach Valley. In 2006, Skasucks formed and led the ska-punk movement in Korea.

Korean rock festivals[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "한국의 록" [Korean rock]. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  2. ^ a b Kallen, Stuart A. (2014). K-Pop: Korea’s Musical Explosion. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 5–8. ISBN 1467725498.
  3. ^ Kim, Pil Ho (2016). "Korean Rock's Journey From Group Sound to Indie Punk". In Shin, Hyunjoon; Lee, Seung-Ah. Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. Taylor & Francis. pp. 71–82. ISBN 131764574X.
  4. ^ a b Jackson, Julie (2012-11-08). "'Godfather of rock' unplugged". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  5. ^ "키 보이스 소개" [Key Boys profile]. Mnet (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  6. ^ a b Fuhr, Michael (2015). Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop. Routledge. ISBN 1317556909.
  7. ^ a b Kim, Shin, Pil-ho, Hyunjoon (2010). The Birth of "Rok" Cultural Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Glocalization of Rock Music in South Korea, 1964–1975. Duke University Press.
  8. ^ "Discovering Korean Metal: A Rocky Road". Seoul Beats. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  9. ^ Dunbar, Jon (22 February 2013). "Stephen Epstein: Korea's indie rock scholar". Korea.net. Retrieved 18 February 2014.