Introducing: Let’s Discover Some (Korean) Idols

Being a blog about Japanese idols, typically we’re going to write a lot about idols from Japan! Funny how that works out. However, since we started our mission, things have been shaken up a little – there’s a whole world of pop stars performing to alternative music and for the next week, we’re going to be looking at the finest Korea’s indie idol scene has to offer.

If you own a radio, you can probably tell what’s popular in South Korean mainstream music! Groups like BTS and Blackpink dominate the nation, Loona are popular overseas and the rowdiest things get on the charts is Dreamcatcher or maybe some rock ballads from EXO. Alt rock and heavier genres are almost non-existent on the charts – so while Japan has WACK groups popping up on Oricon and a wreath of bands, South Korea just simply does not. If you search “Korean rock bands”, you’ll find music that’s more akin to Maroon 5 than say, Metallica.

Which of course isn’t a bad thing – we love kpop here! Somebody somewhere loves that other band too, so we’ve been told.

Heavier subcultures of course do exist there just as they do anywhere. Like Binna Kim, vocalist of Korean Symphonic Metal band Ishtar, said in an interview for documentary “K-pop Killers“: “There’s a lot of bands doing this kind of style in Europe, but unfortunately in Korea there wasn’t”.

There’s a multitude of reasons for this, a large one being that during the 1970’s music was heavily censored by the presidential administration. To give you an idea of how severe that was, the man dubbed the godfather of Korean rock, Han Dae Soo, had to flee to America. Banning something doesn’t stop people from doing it however, both smuggled in western LPs and Korean style rock was able to continue and as the president changed (assassinated, but that’s a completely different story), so did censorship laws. The 80’s saw some rock bands on mainstream music shows and had metal explode in popularity! But just as all things pass, so did that era – it went almost as quickly as it came. The kids moshing to bands like Baekdoosan grew up and now most of their kids are into poppier, lighter sounding music.

But even when tastes change, they don’t die completely. There’s a lot of people that love that music and they’re the ones bringing us here, the intersection of idols and heavy music. Alternative style idols have exploded out of Japan and around the world – there’s more cultural mixing going on than in a Kaqriyo album! There are alternative idols everywhere, but Korea’s unique relationship with heavier music is so interesting that we decided to make an entire article series about it!

We’ll cover things loosely, but tomorrow we’ll show you some very fun people who are starting out on their journey and who we hope you’ll want to support. If you like heavy metal and idols, keep your eyes and ears peeled…

But until then, if our little introduction has wet your whistle, maybe you’d like to watch the aforementioned K-pop Killers documentary! There’s a lot of material out there that we used to deluge into this side of the stage, but this provides a unique in depth insight into how metal subculture juxtaposes, subverts and mimics Korean society. You’ll get to learn a lot about another country and hear music from a band called “Christfuck“, a win-win situation!