Introduction: Living in a Post-Seo Taiji World
Many consider Seo Taiji to be a pioneer of Hallyu K-pop, first as the leader of Seo Taiji and Boys, and later as a solo artist. Cho Chung-un refers to “his unique style” as a key factor that “made him a cultural icon of Korea, giving him the nickname ‘President of Culture’” (“K-pop”). Others, like online writer asphodel, divide Korean popular music history into “Pre-Seo Taiji” and “Post-Seo Taiji.” The list of K-pop artists and groups who cite Seo Taiji as an inspiration is long. He has had an immeasurable impact on contemporary K-pop industry: “With the group achieving enormous success in the country’s music industry, entertainment agencies started to nurture young musicians such as H.O.T, Sechs Kies, Fin.K.L and Shinhwa” (Cho, “K-pop”). His significance goes beyond the genre of Korean rock, for reviewer Wyatt likens his stature in Korea to Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and John Lennon.
Not merely imitating, Seo Taiji broke new ground in the way he blended global musical genres: “Since Seo Taiji, the syncretism of a wide range of musical genres in one album has become commonplace in Korea. What has come into existence is a hybrid but distinctively Korean pop style” (Shim, 37).
Pioneering a hybrid Korean popular music with global aspirations, Seo Taiji set the tone for contemporary K-pop through his fusion of multiple music genres with a Korean sensibility, global fan activity, and groundbreaking industry practices. These activities continue to be staples of K-pop today.