The Rise of Hip Hop Culture in South Korea


Small South Korea flag | Small South Korean flag | 3 x 2 flags | small flags

 South Korea is one of the many countries that has experienced a rise in the popularity of hip hop in the last several years.  The origins of hip hop in South Korea date back to the early 1990s when was still considered an underground phenomenon. About twenty years later, hip hop has become just as popular as K-Pop.  

Drunken Tiger is considered to be the pioneers of Korean hip hop consisting of Tiger JK and DJ Shine(left in 2005) when they met at a music festival in Los Angeles in the early 1990s.  Other group members associated were Micki Eyes, DJ Jhig, and Roscoe Umali.  Two years ago, Drunken Tiger reunited to include rapper/singer Yoon Mi-rae and rapper Bizzy as Korean hip hop group MFBTY(My Fans [Are] Better Than Yours).  

Drunken Tiger – The Cure

The group was formed after Ice Cube made the song Black Korea during the time when the Los Angeles Riots were taking place.  There were negative tensions between Koreans and blacks.  The incident that sparked this tension was when a Korean store owner named Soon Ja Du killed Latasha Harkins when she attempted to steal a bottle of orange juice.  Therefore, they saw hip hop as an avenue to bridge the gap and promote a greater understanding among both cultures. 

Known as the home of popular electronic companies Samsung & LG and automobile manufacturers Hyundai & Kia, South Korea has developed their own market for talented hip hop artists.  Drunken Tiger has opened the doors for many top Korean hip hop artists such as San E, G-Dragon, Beenzino, Dynamic Duo, Verbal JintEpik High, and PSY(popular for his hit song Gangnam Style).  One Korean artist that I forgot to mention attracting attention in America is Keith Ape.  Currently, he has become popular for his breakout hit single It G Ma.

San E – A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness

G-Dragon – Crooked

When many young people around think of Korean music, K-Pop immediately comes to mind.  I believe there are many successful K-Pop groups as well as Korean hip hop acts.  Record labels like Hi-Lite Records are helping to promote greater diversity among artists.  It is one of the best methods of breaking away from the conventional mainstream formula that was once used by record companies to help artists become successful in their careers.  This avenue has provided many opportunities for mainstream and underground artists to perform around Korea in showcasing their talent with others.

Beenzino – Aqua Man

Dynamic Duo featuring DJ Premier AEAO  

In Seoul, they host an annual event called the World DJ Festival allowing more hip hop artists a greater advantage to perform in front of a live audience.  Originally, this event was predominately held by electronic artists at one time.  It started in 2007 and considered the largest DJ festival in Korea.  Since hip hop has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, I see more hip hop artists using this platform to expose their talents.

Verbal Jint – You Look Good

Epik High – Fly

Most importantly, the Internet has forever changed the way we listen to music nowadays.  Therefore, artists today have greater access to resources and freedom to create their own music independently without taking the traditional route of being signed to to major label in getting discovered. Hip hop culture will continue to flourish in Korea because young people can relate to the messages these artists convey through their music.

PSY – Gangnam Style

Keith Ape – It G Ma

As long as a they continue speaking their mind and remain true to themselves, then hip hop will continue attracting audiences not only in Korea, but around the globe.  South Korea has come a long way and will continue making strides, especially in the world of hip hop.

For more information about the rise of Korean hip hop, click on the links to these following articles below:






About wmckenzie95

I am passionate about travel and learning about other cultures. On my free time, I love to listen to music and watch movies. Some countries that I really want to visit are Japan and France.
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