Trot (music)

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Revised RomanizationTeuroteu

Trot (Hangul: 트로트, teuroteu), also known by the onomatopoetic term ppongjjak (Hangul: 뽕짝), is a genre of Korean pop music, known for its use of repetitive rhythm and vocal inflections.[1][2][3] Originating in Korea during Japanese rule in the first half of the 20th century, trot was influenced by many genres of Korean, Japanese, European, and U.S. music.[4]

While trot was popular among young Koreans during Japanese rule, it was considered old-fashioned by the 1990s in South Korea, where K-pop had gained dominance. However, in the 2000s and 2010s, young trot singers including Jang Yun-jeong and Hong Jin-young, and K-pop singers including Super Junior-T, Daesung, and Lizzy, helped renew interest in the genre and popularize it among young listeners.[1][5]


The name "trot" is a shortened form of "foxtrot," a style of ballroom dance that influenced the simple two-beat rhythm of trot music. Trot and foxtrot do not share any other notable characteristics.[6]


Trot is known for often being composed in two-beat rhythm, also known as duple metre.[6] In its early days, trot music was most often composed using the pentatonic scale and minor keys. After Japanese rule, more trot music was composed using the heptatonic scale and major keys.[1] In trot music, lower tones are generally sung with vibrato, while higher tones are sung with a method called kkeongneun sori (Hangul: 꺽는소리), or "breaking throat."[3]

Origins (1910s-1940s)[edit]

Trot music originated in Korea during Japan’s period of colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.[1] According to some scholars, trot's origins can be traced to sijo, a traditional form of Korean poetry. Other scholars assert that trot's closest ancestors were Western popular songs and Japanese enka, translated into Korean and called yuhaeng changga.[3] Singer Yun Sim-deok’s 1926 hit recording "In Praise of Death," an adaptation of a Romanian song, is often regarded as the first yuhaeng changga.[1]

In the 1930s, Korean songwriters began composing original popular songs called yuhaengga, meaning "fashionable music." These songs soon acquired a new name, daejung gayo, meaning "popular music." Kim Yong-hwan's 1927 song "Falling Flowers and Flowing Rivers" would become emblematic of this rise in Korean songwriters and composers producing popular songs.[3]

After Japanese rule (1950s-1970s)[edit]

After the end of World War II and Japan’s colonial rule over Korea, trot music began to become more Westernized. The Westernization of trot music was done in part by two reasons: one, the South Korean government’s goal in eradicating the ideological values of communism,[citation needed] and two, South Korean musicians drew on American popular musical trends to appeal to American soldiers stationed in South Korea,[citation needed] as well as to introduce exotic musical effects to South Korean audiences. Female trio singers The Kim Sisters became popular during this time, as their performances drew appeal from American soldiers and audiences, catapulting them to fame when they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s. This period also introduced a number of South Korean musicians to the center such as Lee Mi-ja, Patti Kim, Tae Jin Ah, Na Hoon-a, and Moon Joo-ran.

Decline in popularity (1980s-1990s)[edit]

Trot music gradually lost its dominance in the 1980s, as dance music soon overtook the airwaves. However, the invention of cassettes produced a huge impact on the production of trot, and helped bring about the localization of trot music. It also helped in the invention of the sound of trot medley, which is now emblematic of contemporary Korean trot music. Performers such as Joo Hyun-mi and Epaksa grew in fame. In recent years, trot music has become symbolic of traditional popular music in South Korea.

1984 ppongjjak debate[edit]

The origins of trot music have traditionally been disputed. In 1984 this dispute entered the national discourse in South Korea.[7] The debate, initiated in an article published in The Eumak Dong-a: A Monthly Journal of Music (음악동아 Eum-ak Dong-a) in November 1984, centered on whether or not trot music originated from either Japanese or Korean music. Because the genre originated during the colonial period of Korea, as well as incorporated Japanese song influences in changga, the genre has been subject to questioning its Korean identity. Since no concrete evidence has arisen to validate either side, this debate still continues to exist when discussing the origins of trot music.[8]

Contemporary political use of trot music[edit]

An article published in the Chosun Ilbo in 2010 reported the government’s use of trot music as a propaganda tool against North Korea.[9] Over 184 songs from artists such as Na Hoon-a, Jang Yun-jeong and Park Hyun-bin, were broadcast through FM radio programs targeting North Korean soldiers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chang, Yu-jeong (2016). "Trot and Ballad, Popular Genres of Korean Pop". In Shin, Hyunjoon; Lee, Seung-Ah. Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317645733.
  2. ^ Insight Guides (2016). Insight Guides South Korea. Apa Publications. ISBN 978-1786716644.
  3. ^ a b c d Son, Min-jung (Winter–Spring 2006). "Regulating and Negotiating in T'urot'u, a Korean Popular Song Style". Asian Music. 37: 51–74. CiteSeerX doi:10.1353/amu.2006.0010.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  4. ^ Lie, John (2014). K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea. University of California Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0520283121.
  5. ^ Sung, So-Young (2015-02-02). "Young singers are hot to 'trot'". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  6. ^ a b Lee, Yeong-mi. "트로트" [Trot]. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  7. ^ Pak, Gloria L. "On the Mimetic Faculty: A Critical Study of the 1984 Ppongtchak Debate and Post-Colonial Mimesis." In Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave, edited by Keith Howard, 62-71. Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2006.
  8. ^ Lee, Gang-Im (2008). Directing Koreanness: Directors and playwrights under the national flag, 1970--2000. ProQuest. ISBN 978-1-109-05526-9. Despite the considerable popularity of trot song in South Korea, due to the origin of trot song in Japanese enka, this genre is still debated among (pop) critics.
  9. ^ The Chosunilbo. "Trot Music Is S.Korea's Best Propaganda Weapon". December 30, 2010.