Indie: A ‘dirty’ word?

Korea, I love you. I honestly really do. I love your culture, the people, the food, the music. Ah….the music I don’t just love. I adore it. In face I love the music so much that I sometimes think that I could easily live with just the music alone (then hunger sets in and I realise that I smell a little because I’ve been refusing to shower for a day or two!). Ok so I can’t live off of the music but I think any fan of Korean music would understand my feelings when I say that.

The only difference is I’m not discussing the usual music when I say I could live from it, I’m discussing the rarely looked into music; Korean indie. Now I know what you are all going to say, ‘who doesn’t discuss the indie music in Korea, I love 10cm’ but this is just my point. It is a very rarely discussed topic. While we all stand around and celebrate the fact that K-pop is gaining a big enough following in the UK for us to be able to see groups such as 4minute, B2ST and EXO, we stop at this.

Where are the declarations of love for groups such as Huckleberry Finn with a career spanning more than half a decade. Or Juck Juck Grunzie (half a decade) and Square the circle (together for only a little over a year but already forming a very strong group. I love them). The number of brilliantly talented groups I could easily name drop here is overwhelming, but why do we so rarely get to hear anything about them? To me, it seems that if you are not a K-pop idol in Korean you are fighting a losing war. We have to remember that this is a country in which to me it seems that differences are not often encouraged and the success of a ‘artist’ is measured by how willing they are to follow the trends set before them.

While Korean idol stars are receiving popularity worldwide, indie artists are struggling with Koreas somewhat flawed music distribution system. Yes, idols are constantly seen on programmes, talent shows, dramas, etc…….but where exactly does this leave indie artists. Financially flawed that’s where. Many of these musicians pay to have their music distributed to small fan bases within Korea.
Yes now there seems to be a rising appeal in indie artists but is it for the music alone or because a member of a group looks like they might make a nice addition to somebodies bias list? Music is about a lot more then how appealing we find the members of a group. Indeed having something pretty or handsome to look at never hurt anyone but isn’t it good to look a group for their music and not just their looks.

However there is hope as the last year has shown a dramatic rise in indie artists cracking the Korean charts. Artists such as 10cm and Jang Ki-Ha and the faces are breaking out from the shadows of their somewhat ‘squeaky clean’ counterparts, showing that acts such as 2NE1 and Girls Generation are just one tire of the huge cake that is Korean music. Indie music to me remains a widely overlooked genre of music within the Korean music fan base both in Korea and outside of it but with the continuous fight of its artists hopefully it continues to make a bigger impact on people.

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Co-founder and Editor at Beyond Hallyu
Lover of Korean hip-hop and indie music...and Unicorns.
  • Terri

    A nice piece… it’s a bit strange to learn that the differences aren’t encouraged in Korea :/
    I’ve never been too much of an idie fan anyway (or pop for that matter) until I started paying attention to Simon and Martina’s videos on kpop and K-Indie music… I actually think that videos like these will help the Korean indie groups get more intenation recognition

  • edelgrace

    I find it saddening that most international K-pop fans find out about “indie music” (I use quotation marks because indie in this context seems to imply non-idol music) through EYK. It’s not THAT hard to find indie music. If only more fans had the incentive to seek them out on their own. Then again, I stumbled upon “K-indie” and didn’t actively search either.

    Technically, my first exposure to K-Music was Younha and BoA but it was only to their Japanese works so I don’t count them. My first REAL exposure to K-Music was Outsider (before his Maestro album) and Huckleberry Finn, back in 2009. I listened to a Japanese podcast that occasionally played Korean and Tawainese and Hong Kong music. I also found out about Big Bang and SNSD (do people still even call them SNSD anymore?) through this podcast but Huck Finn and Outsider really captured my heart.

    If only podcasts were more relevant. I was really captured by Huck Finn solely because of the music and not because the members could be my “bias” (I didn’t even know that word existed until two years ago). Heck, I thought the vocalist was male and not female! I had no idea what they looked like but I still loved the music. Audio podcasts are great because they focus solely on the sound. Social media and YouTube encourages visuals a whole heck a lot more than they should.