Seo Taiji and Boys

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Seo Taiji and Boys
Seo Taiji on October 20, 2014 (2).jpg
Seo Taiji in 2014
Background information
Origin Seoul, South Korea
Years active 1992 (1992)–1996
  • Bando Eumban
  • Yedang Company
Past members Seo Taiji
Yang Hyun-suk
Lee Juno
Korean name
Hangul 서태지와 아이들
Revised Romanization Seo Taijiwa aideul
McCune–Reischauer Sŏ T‘aeji-wa aidŭl

Seo Taiji and Boys (Hangul서태지와 아이들) was a South Korean music group active from 1992 to 1996. Its three members Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun-suk and Lee Juno experimented with many different genres of popular Western music.[1] Seo Taiji and Boys were highly successful and are credited with changing the South Korean music industry.[2] They won the Grand Prize at the Seoul Music Awards in both 1992 and 1993.[3] In April 1996, Billboard reported that their first three albums had each sold over 1.6 million copies with the fourth nearing two million.[4]


After the breakup of the heavy metal band Sinawe in 1991, Seo Taiji switched gears and formed the group Seo Taiji and Boys with dancers and backing vocalists Yang Hyun-suk and Lee Juno. Yang said he first met Seo when the musician came to him to learn how to dance. "Blown away" by his music, Yang offered to join the group and they later recruited Lee who was one of the top dancers in Korea. Similarly, Lee joined the group as a background dancer, despite being highly regarded in his own right, because the music "moved [his] heart."[5] Seo Taiji came across MIDI technology for the first time in South Korea in the early 1990s and started experimenting with different MIDI sounds to create a new type of music that had not been heard by the public. He initially had no plans to debut as a dance/pop boy group and Seo Taiji and Boys' mainstream success was a surprise.

Prior to Seo Taiji and Boys, the Korean music industry was primarily influenced by American and Japanese folk music due to the colonial roots of South Korea. This music would dominate the Korean music industry until the country lifted the travel ban they had in place in 1988. This would allow musical elements from foreign countries to become more accessible. In the 1990s Seo Taiji and Boys would begin to use the MIDI technology to begin incorporating westernized music elements such as rap, rock and techno into his music. Seo Taiji and Boys would also begin incorporating the English language into their music, a popular trend in South Korea, that resulted due to increased reliance on the United States for economic stability. By incorporating these music elements into Korea’s more ballad-like music, Seo Taiji and Boys would provide the basis for the hybridization of Korea's music with that of the outside world, this would result in the foundation of modern Korean pop music. This hybridization of music would be one of the fundamental reasons for the popularity of Korean pop music, as it also promoted Korean pop music ability to penetrate foreign markets in what has become known as the Korean Wave. Seo Taiji and Boys acted as an instrument of change within Korea, challenging censorship laws as well as the television networks hegemony over the music market. In 1995 the Korean Broadcasting Ethics Committee demanded that Seo Taiji and Boys change the lyrics to Shame the Times. This would incite protests and result in the abolishment of censorship in Korea. Seo Taiji also did not have to rely on television networks due to the fact that he owned his own studio, this would begin a waning in the power over the television networks ability to dictate when artists appear on shows.[6][7]

1992: "Nan Arayo"[edit]

The trio debuted on MBC's talent show on April 11, 1992 with their song "Nan Arayo" (난 알아요, "I Know") and got the lowest rating from the jury.[8] However, the song and their self-titled debut album became so successful that, according to MTV Iggy, "K-pop music would never be the same" again.[9] "Nan Arayo" was a hugely successful hit;[10] its new jack swing-inspired beats, upbeat rap lyrics and catchy choruses took Korean audiences by storm.[9] It charted at the No. 1 spot for a record 17 weeks. Although, this has since been broken by Big Bang's "Lies", which topped the chart for 18 weeks.[citation needed] Seo Taiji and Boys won a Golden Disc Award for "Nan Arayo" in 1992.[11] Spin named "Nan Arayo" number 4 on their 2012 list of the 21 Greatest K-Pop Songs of All Time.[12] In 2015, Rolling Stone named it number 36 on its list of the 50 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time.[13]

1993: "Hayeoga"[edit]

Their 1993 second album took a different turn. Although remaining a mostly dance album, a few songs such as "Hayeoga" (何如歌, "Anyway") had elements of heavier rock music added to them. "Hayeoga" earned them their second Golden Disc Award.[11] While promoting the album, the group were banned from appearing on certain television shows because they wore earrings, ripped jeans and had dreadlocks.[14][15] This was the first of the numerous controversies regarding Seo Taiji and Boys. Their second album became the first 'double million sellers' album in Korean history.

1994: "Kyoshil Idaeyo"[edit]

The third album switched gears to being much more heavy metal and rock driven. The danceable tunes were nearly non-existent except "Balhaereul Ggumggumyeo" (발해를 꿈꾸며, "Dreaming of Balhae"), an alternative rock song indicating a hope of reuniting North and South Korea, which earned them their third Golden Disc Award.[11] Instead, songs such as the controversial "Kyoshil Idaeyo" (교실 이데아, "Classroom Ideology") with death growl vocals by Ahn Heung-chan of Crash took center stage. "Kyoshil Idaeyo" was extremely critical of the Korean education system and the pressure placed on youth to succeed academically.[14] They were accused of backmasking Satanic messages in their songs. Although the mainstream news media later proved these accusations to be based on extremely tenuous evidence, the moral panic proved difficult to eliminate entirely.[16]

1995: "Sidae Yugam"[edit]

Not backing down, Seo Taiji and Boys' fourth album exploded with more controversial songs. "Come Back Home" was a foray into gangster rap. "Pilseung" (필승, "Must Triumph") was also a great hit with alternative rock sound and shouting voice. "Sidae Yugam" (시대유감, "Shame of the Times") was banned by the Public Performance Ethics Committee for having lyrics that criticized the government.[17] The version of the song included on the album is instrumental only.[14] The backlash from the fans was immense, and the system of 'pre-censorship' (사전심의제) was abolished in June 1996, partially as a result of this. An EP titled Sidae Yugam and including the original version of the song was released a month after the system was abolished.

1996: Retirement[edit]

Seo Taiji and Boys retired from South Korea's popular music scene in January 1996 during its heyday. Lee later stated that Seo made the decision to disband himself while recording their fourth album, much to the surprise of Yang and himself.[16] Their announcement of retirement was a huge disappointment for millions of fans in Korea. The compilation album Goodbye Best Album was released later that year.

Seo Taiji headed over to the United States soon after, while Lee Juno and Yang Hyun-suk established record labels right after their retirement. Yang Hyun-suk was successful in making YG Entertainment one of the three biggest record companies in the country.[5] Seo Taiji returned to music two years later with a very successful solo career; he is now referred to as "the President of culture" in South Korea.[5] In 2007, all four of Seo Taiji and Boys' albums were included in Kyunghyang Shinmun's Top 100 Pop Albums, with their first ranking the highest at number 24.[18][19][20][21]

In 2014, when asked about a possible Seo Taiji and Boys reunion, Seo revealed that the three members had talked about it often. However, he said "The biggest obstacle is that in the past, we put on really beautiful performances, which fans remember, but if we get back together now, I worry we might disappoint, so I am not confident. I lack more and more confidence as I get older. I don't think I'd be able to dance as fiercely as I had in the past."[22]


  • Seo Taiji (서태지) – lead vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards, main songwriter, bandleader
  • Yang Hyun-suk (양현석) – backing vocals, choreography
  • Lee Juno (이주노) – backing vocals, choreography


Studio albums
Live albums
  • Taiji Boys Live & Techno Mix (1992)
  • '93 Last Festival (1994)
  • '95 Farewall to Sky (1995)
Other releases
  • Goodbye Best Album (1996, compilation)
  • Sidae Yugam (1996, EP)


Golden Disc Awards[edit]

Year Category Recipient Result
1992 Best Artist Seo Taiji and Boys[23] Won
1993 Won
1994 Won
1995 Popularity Award Won

Seoul Music Awards[edit]

Year Category Recipient Result
1992 Grand Prize Seo Taiji and Boys[3] Won
New Artist Award Won
1993 Grand Prize Won
Main Prize Won
1995 Main Prize Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sohn, Ji-young (2014-05-20). "[Newsmaker] K-pop legend Seo Taiji to return". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2015-07-05. 
  2. ^ Suh, Hye-rim (2013-07-03). "Seo Taiji and Boys chosen as K-pop icons". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2015-07-05. 
  3. ^ a b "제23회서울가요대상". Seoul Music Awards (in Korean). Archived from the original on 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  4. ^ Seoul Music: Rockin' in Korea; April 20, 1996. Billboard. p. 18. 
  5. ^ a b c Cho, Chung-un (2012-03-23). "K-pop still feels impact of Seo Taiji & Boys". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2015-07-05. 
  6. ^ Shim, Doobo. "Hybridity and the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia". Media Culture & Society. 28: 25–44. 
  7. ^ Oh, Ingyu. "The Globalization of K-Pop: Korea's Place in the Global Music Industry". The Institution of Korean Studies. 44: 389–409. 
  8. ^ K-Pop: A New Force in Pop Music, pp. 63–66
  9. ^ a b "What Is K-pop? (Page 3)". MTV Iggy. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-03-05. 
  10. ^ Jackson, Julie (2014-10-19). "[Herald Review] Seo Taiji induces '90s nostalgia with lavish 'Christmalowin' return". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2015-07-05. 
  11. ^ a b c "역대수상자 골든디스크". Golden Disc Awards (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  12. ^ "The 21 Greatest K-Pop Songs of All Time". Spin. 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2016-06-30. 
  13. ^ "50 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  14. ^ a b c Mitchell, Tony (January 1, 2002). Global Noise: Rap and Hip Hop Outside the USA. Wesleyan University Press. p. 251. 
  15. ^ The Korean Popular Culture Reader. Duke University Press. 2014. p. 301. 
  16. ^ a b "Way Back Wednesday: Seo Taiji & Boys - "Nan Arayo"". 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2015-07-05. 
  17. ^ Tri-Lingual Radio for Malaysia, Censorship Exemption in Korea; August 10, 1996. Billboard. p. 45. 
  18. ^ "[대중음악 100대 명반]24위 서태지와 아이들 '서태지와 아이들'". Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). 2007-11-15. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  19. ^ "[대중음악 100대 명반]30위 서태지와 아이들 '서태지와 아이들Ⅱ'". Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  20. ^ "[대중음악 100대 명반]57위 서태지와 아이들 '서태지와 아이들 III'". Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  21. ^ "[대중음악 100대 명반]36위 서태지와 아이들 '서태지와 아이들Ⅳ'". Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  22. ^ "Seo Taiji discusses the possibility of a Seo Taiji and Boys reunion". 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  23. ^ "역대수상자" [Previous winners]. Golden Disc Awards (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-01-25.