List: The New Generation of Korean Punk Bands 

The punk scene in South Korea stretches back a few decades with bands like RUX No Brain, Crying Nut and GUMX letting the world know that a healthy scene exists in the country. Alongside the bands, Skunk Label (started by Won Jong-hee of RUX) and the iconic We are the Punx in Korea compilation album also made sure the bands got their due exposure,while clubs like the two Skunk Hell venues in Seoul became playpens for the subculture. Come 2022 and a new breed of punk bands have emerged in South Korea. While they acknowledge the work done by the forefathers, these bands are crafting their own sound and image, while properly revamping the feel of what it means to be punk in South Korea at this time. Let’s take a look at some of the rainbow-colored new blood.

럼킥스 Rumkicks 

Welcome to the rainbow-colored world of Korean punk. First off are Rumkicks, a three-piece all girl band who aside from Korea, have taken their brand of breezy punk abroad to the UK. Beginning in 2018, the band adopted the spiky haired, ripped fishnet look quickly into their career – it now being the visual identity of the band. Lyrical content-wise, the band have songs related to needless gate-keeping (“Punk is Nowhere”), endearing tracks about simply living the lifestyle (“Punk Rocker”) and with “Proud of Madness,” an anthem about the representatives of mental diversity who proudly stood at Gwangwhamun Square to raise awareness of mental illness in Korea.

 

데드챈트 Dead Chant 

Playing hot potato with band members is also a common occurrence in the Korean punk scene, as Dead Chant are another band sharing a member of Rumkicks, this time Choi Seeun. The members have taken on the names Kangboy, Rumgirl, YBomb and Zikee. You can probably guess who Rumgirl is. While the name Dead Chant is a bit grim, the band is usually a fun one, with songs like “Kill Your Boss” being anthems for the grueling work culture of South Korea. However, with the recent Degeneration EP, the band have gone in a melancholic direction.

 

The 1234-Dah! 

On drums: Geuk-Ak Haru! On bass: Hogu Mask! On guitar: Izoki the flame! The 1234-dah! Certainly look like wrestlers, with Hogu wearing a “Rowdy” Roddy Piper kilt and Izoki sounding like Sgt. Slaughter if he joined a Korean punk band, but you might be surprised that their songs are at times pretty romantic. Songs like “A Little More, Even If It’s Awkward” tell of those special little moments in life you long for in between the raging punk shows.

Pogo Attack 

The motto of Pogo Attack is the endearing “Enjoy. Fun. Drink. Never Die! Oi!” Even more endearing are the lyrics from this young leather-wearing, rainbow-haired band of pogo punks: “Put on spiky jacket again. Put on our skirt. Our kids like pogo punk. Pogo keep going. Put on boots, walking the street. Beer in one hand. Drink, drink, fucking drink! Pogo keep going on!” A message like this may seem stale coming from an American band, but with the Korean Pogo Attack, it feels fresh – it feels like a call to arms for this new generation of bands who have defied what pop culture expects of them.

몽키피콰르텟 Monkey Pee Quartet 

What sounds like monkey pee? Well, apparently Korean punk. Silly name aside, this urine foursome from Gwang-Ju have created some seriously stylish music videos to go along with songs “Bad Ape” and “My Old Virgin Sister.” This contrast between innocuous and artistic makes their melodic brand of pop-punk feel a few quarts of monkey pee above the rest.

메리헤이데이 Merryheyday 

Merryheyday – another young, endearing band embracing their youth and making something out of it, even if some days they might get a little stupid. In their video for “Young and Stupid”  a suited man on the verge of tears while dancing through the streets. At the halfway point, his clothes turn casual and he suddenly has a smile on his face. It ends at a live show, showing the local scene having a grand old, merry time. If only youth could last forever – thankfully, bands like Merryheyday exist to show us that the kids are indeed alight.

스모킹구스  Smoking Goose 

Let’s get serious for a minute. Smoking Goose are a three-piece band with deep subjects on their mind. Through the musical power of pop punk, they bring to the table songs like “About Extinction,” which brings the question of what if a rock band goes extinct? It would be a shame if they did before their prime and songs that could have been written never do. “Monsoon” is about listening to the rain in the monsoon season – a contemplative, albeit relaxing past time for people in the region. “20, 000 Lies” can be related to any amount of lies told to the listener. Here’s to more shots of truth from the Smoking Goose.

드링킹소년소녀합창단  Drinking Boys and Girls Choir

This choir of skate punkers hail from Daegu, though chose not to move to the capital city, Seoul, to develop the scene in this rather conservative city. The band is made up of both male and female members. All sing and all drink. So, I guess their name said it all, right? Well, instead of a church choir, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir play thrashy skate punk with songs like “National Police Sh!t” and “I’m a Fucking McDonald’s.”

소닉스톤즈 Sonic Stones 

With a megaphone in hand and songs like “This is Hell,” legendary GUMX vocalist Yongwon Lee is showing the new generation how it’s done properly with Sonic Stones. From 2017 onward, Lee and company haven’t shied away from including numerous musical elements into Sonic Stones’ musical output. An introspective acoustic passage on “The Beginning of the End” gives way to a raucous number. Their new album Burning Us All was released in 2022. The feelings represented here (caused by the Corona era) are, according to the band: “The red siren of boiling anger, loneliness, conflict, and irrepressible emotions.”

라이엇 키즈 Riot Kidz 

If there was ever a Korean punk band which by all means should be a household name in the good ol’ USA, it would be, it should be Riot Kidz. The band started out in 2011, though didn’t release a single until 2014 – obviously fine-tuning their sound, and what a sound it is. The catchiness of Simple Plan (without being hokey), the songwriting gusto of early Green Day and to get off topic a little, a look fit for magazine covers is what Riot Kidz brings to the Korean BBQ grill. Listen to “Fahrenheit” to get a full dose of what this riot can extrapolate.

투파이브 Twofive 

Twofive (stylized Tw25ive) are a Gwangju-based indie punk band made of three strapping young gentlemen.  The feeling I get from the band is that they are genuine in writing heartfelt songs about universal subjects – pop punk without the sarcasm. “It Was Good, That Day” shows the band members waking up out of bed and brushing their teeth in the video, while “I Always Miss You” has the band rocking out on top of a building and in a park. For good songs without gimmicks, look to Twofive.

이디어츠 Idiots  

Here come the Idiots! But who are they? Idiots are a four-piece band with a unique, feminine voice as the focus of the music. Cute and non-threatening sounding, but backed by some serious self-deprecating humor, they came onto the scene in 2018 with the EP entitled 1st EP. “This is the first EP album by the stupid punk band Idiots. I hope our song will be a warm and clear power to many people” said the band. It didn’t take them long to go the cartoon villain route with later releases featuring a sort of purple-haired mascot. “Rather than living like this, I will become a villain and destroy everything.” Smart idea, Idiots.

피싱걸스 Fishingirls 

Have you ever wanted to hear a pop punk version of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid? Um, okay, how about “Cruella de Vil,” the catchy number from 101 Dalmatians? Okay, if you don’t like either of those, Fishingirls do have their own assortment of songs that may win you over. The three-piece all-girl band seem to be interested in the aquatic, with the band’s standout song being the catchy “Fishing King.” Their newest single “Drama Queen” looks to expand the waters of Fishingirls sound from pop punk to something that can just be described as Fishingirls.

쟈니스파크 Jonnyspark 

The young men in Jonny’spark claim they sing of joy. When listening to songs like “Good Night,” it is easy to agree with them – their sound and lyrics take an optimistic approach without being cheesy. They get even more joyous in songs like “Ska Day,” which sounds more uplifting than a song by an actual ska band. Even their choices for covers are the happiest tunes out there by the given band, such as their version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles.

  없는 아재들 No Work Old Men 

We have examined the mindset of the youth in the Korean punk scene with the previous bands. No Work Old Men puts us in a more mature mind-state, though, which is just as endearing. Songs like “I’m Ugly Old Man” and “I Want Beer” tell it like it is. “I drank yesterday but I’m drinking it again,” they shout. I’m sold. I listened to No Work Old Men yesterday, but I’m listening again.

 

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