06. Korean Rock’s Journey from Group Sound to Indie Punk


1. 키보이스, “해변으로 가요”

1. Key Boys, “Haebyŏnŭro Kayo” (Let’s Hit the Beach)

From: Vocal Number 1 Key Boys T’ŭksŏn Ijip, Universal K-APPLE가20, 1970, 33⅓ rpm.

Chang Yŏng: bass; Pak Myŏng-su: guitar; Cho Yŏng-jo: guitar; Kim Pok-san: drums; O Chŏng-so: organ.



Billed as the “Korea’s Beatles” in their 1964 debut, actually the Key Boys were much more like the Beach Boys in the sense that they played a lot of surf-rock style music and  popularized this perennial Korean summertime anthem. The song was written and composed by Kim Hŭi-gap, a legendary musician and bandleader from the U.S. military camp show scene where Korean rock’s origin story begins.

2. 송골매, “어쩌다 마주친 그대”

2. Songolmae , “Ŏtchŏda Majuch’in Kŭdae”

From: Live performance at the Kayo Taesang Award Ceremony, KBS (Korea Broadcasting System), 1982.

Ku Ch’ang-mo: vocals; Pae Ch’ŏl-su: guitar; Kim Chŏng-sŏn: guitar; Kim Sang-bok: bass; Yi Pong-hwan: keyboards; O Sŭng-dong: drums.



As a supergroup coming out of the campus group sound scene, Songolmae was one of the earliest “idol” boy bands who captured the hearts and minds of young teenage schoolgirls. Written and composed by lead singer and frontman Ku Ch’ang-mo, this song first appeared in “Songolmae II” Jigu, JLS-1201684, 1982, 33⅓ rpm.

3. 부활, “희야”

3. Puhwal (Boohwal; Born Again), “Hŭiya” (Dear Hŭi)

From: Rock Will Never Die: Puhwal Vol. 1, Seoul Records SRD-5-007, 1986, 33⅓ rpm.

Kim T’ae-wŏn: guitar, vocals; Yi Sŭng-ch’ŏl: vocals; Yi Chi-ung: guitar; Kim Pyŏng-ch’an: bass; Hwang T’ae-sun: drums.


The title refers to a Korean female name Hŭi. This power ballad showcased Yi Sŭng-ch’ŏl’s unconventionally “pretty” voice for a heavy metal vocalist, which helped launch his solo career soon afterwards. The song was written and composed by Yang Hong-sŏp.

4. 신촌블루스, “골목길”

4. Sinch’on Blues, “Kolmoggil” (Alleyway)

From: Sinch’on Blues II, Tong’a Kihoek VIP-20074, 33⅓ rpm.

Yi Chŏng-sŏn: guitar, vocals; Ŏm In-ho: guitar, vocals; Kim Hyŏn-sik: vocals; Chŏng Sŏ-yong: vocals.


The song was written, composed, and first recorded by Ŏm In-ho, who had been experimenting with reggae rhythm and blues rock since the early 1980’s. This Sinch’on Blues version of “Kolmoggil” features the late Kim Hyŏn-sik as lead vocalist, who makes the song really come alive with his trademark gusto.

5. 말달리자, “말달리자”

5. Crying Nut, “Mal Talija” (Let’s Horse Ride)

From: Crying Nut/Yellow Kitchen, Our Nation Vol. 1, Drug Records 326-3085, 1997.

Pak Yun-sik: vocals; Yi Sang-myŏn: guitar: Han Kyŏng-rok: bass; Yi Sang-hyŏk: drums.



This popular Do-It-Yourself punk anthem came out of the legendary punk club Drug in the late 1990’s. It was written and composed by Yi Sang-hyŏk, and first appeared in the split album with Yellow Kitchen, Our Nation Vol. 1, Drug Records 326-3085, 1997.

6. 델리스파이스, “챠우챠우”

6. Deli Spice, “Ch’au Ch’au”

From: Deli Spice, Music Design DNC-1018, 1997, CD

Kim Min-gyu: vocals, guitar; Yun Chun-ho: bass, vocals; O In-rok: drums; Yi Sŭng-gi: keyboards.



Written and composed by Kim Min-gyu, the song is included in Deli Spice’s eponymous debut LP. Its layered guitar sound and hauntingly beautiful refrain (with lyrics meaning “I can hear your voice”) proved that Korean indie rock of the 1990’s had more to offer than heavy, harsh aggressiveness of grunge and punk.

7. 갤럭시익스프레스, “스페이스 공감”

7. Galaxy Express, “Jungle the Black”

From: Live perfomance at Space Konggam, EBS (Educational Broadcasting System), 2012.

Yi Chu-hyŏn: vocals, bass; Pak Chong-hyŏn: guitar, vocals; Yun Hong-gu: drums.


In a live performance review, the New York Times says, Galaxy Express “harked back to the crashing, rolling protopunk psychedelia of the MC5, slamming away with conviction.” The songwriting credit goes to the entire band. It was first released in their first LP, Ramble Around, Rubysalon RUBY-7001, 2007.

8. 장기하와, “얼굴들 싸구려 커피”

8. Chang Kiha, “Ssaguryŏ K’ŏp’i” (Cheap Coffee)

From: Ssaguryŏ K’ŏp’i, BGBG Records no.09, 2008, CDEP

Chang Kiha: vocals, all instruments.


Chang did everything from writing and arranging to performing in this small-batch DIY release; the next year he formed a full band (Kiha and the Faces) and expanded it to a full-length debut LP. In the song and the entire album, he channels the frustration of the current youth facing high unemployment and dim job prospects, while making clever references to the Korean rock and modern folk styles of the 1960-70’s.