Seo Sa Hei and Ultramaniacs
Seo Taiji not only revolutionized the sound of Korean popular music, he also inspired fan activity, a hallmark of contemporary K-pop. Seo Sa Hei is Seo Taiji’s international fan club. While his catalog became available via iTunes in 2012, he had already garnered an international following, showing the global appeal of his music.
Like many K-pop artists and groups, Seo Taiji sends messages to his fans on important dates. In celebration of his 20th anniversary, he thanked his fans on his official homepage: “I’d like to thank everyone for listening to music and for giving me the support needed to continue making music for this long. To the world’s most amazing people in this world, I want to tell my fans that I love them and that I thank them” (VITALSIGN). He also receives congratulatory messages from his former bandmate, Yang Hyun Suk, showing the kind of camaraderie found among K-pop artists: “All of us are busy doing our own thing, but those days will last forever as good memories. I hope that everything Taiji and Juno do in the new year will be successful.” Yang also linked the success of the former group to his own: “Thank you to all the fans who have loved and supported Seo Taiji & Boys for the past 20 years. I think they have helped YG become what it is today” (lessa86).
In 2010, fans of Seo Taiji acquired a Brazilian rainforest in honor of his 20th anniversary. Inspired by the MBC documentary Tears of the Amazon, Mi Jung Oh reports that the group of fans “learned after a month of research that the British group World Land Trust (WLT) was supporting tree planting, and decided to collaborate with the group and plant trees in Guapi Assu in Brazil. . . . The project group decided that 20 million won would be sufficient to build a forest according to advice given by WLT and a local group, REGUA, and the groups exchanged documents containing conditions that the forest was not being created for personal purposes, that the forest should be put under regular care and that feedback should be given about the process.” The group raised 39 million won, and intends to buy more land for the Seo Taiji Forest. The World Land Trust estimates that the funds raised would plant 5,000 trees.
Other fans seek to preserve Seo Taiji’s legacy through projects like the Seo Taiji Archive Project, which provides information about the artist. Lee Jin-sook, the project’s advisor, notes the diversity of those who work on the project: “They are fans of different ages with different jobs, different backgrounds. We have members who are in their 40s and even some middle school students. . . . We are individuals who have memberships in different fan groups or websites that suit our own tastes. We pursue fan culture based on freedom and autonomy where members can freely participate in projects such as the Seo Taiji Forest and the Seo Taiji Archive” (Cho, “Seo Taiji’s Music”).
Other fans have created a choir. On August 18, 2012, the Seo Taiji Choir performed at the Sadang Cultural Center in Seoul: “The choir formed in April of this year and the participants are very enthusiastic to be part of the commemorative celebrations. All of those involved feel that this will express how Seo Taiji has impacted their lives through his music” (Nadia1887).