Korea’s Hip Hop heritage

Bea Lesaca of HardKnockRadio traces the origins of Korea’s Hop Hop culture.

Do You Know About Hip Hop’s Korean Roots?

Hip Hop in Korea has grown so much over the past 20 years. Personally, I believe that a large part of it is thanks to break dancing, which delivered this culture to a larger audience. As one of the four core elements of Hip Hop 1, break dancing introduced the Hip Hop lifestyle to Korean youth, where it was quickly adopted. And as a b-girl myself (female break dancer), not only do I recognize Koreans as expert in this field, but also as Hip Hop pioneers in Asia.

But why do I say that Korean Hip Hop is legit?

Even in the 1980’s the Western influence on Korea was felt through the hip hop music blaring in its clubs. According to some accounts (a good one is by Sung Kiwan on the Lincoln Center website), the first few rumblings of this culture were actually brought by the American troops stationed in Korea.

Soul Train was shown every Sunday afternoon by the American Forces Korea Network for the troops and this was probably the first time Koreans actually saw or heard Hip Hop, Funk and break dancing.

Hyun Jin-young and Wawa
Hyun Jin-young and Wawa

From this moment on, unique bits and pieces of Korean Hip Hop started emerging, which included the likes of Jae-Min Lee’s dance hit Alleway and Jin-young Hyun, who made it possible to bring underground Hip Hop to the mainstream with his b-boy crew Hyun Jinyoung and Wawa. Thanks to these guys, Korean Hip Hop was taking form.

The mid 90’s saw the influx of Korean musicians from the USA (mostly from LA), which was said to bring about the traditional Hip Hop we are all more familiar with. From then on, events came and went, building little by little the Hip Hop culture in Seoul.

Expression Crew

But the late 90’s, however, saw b-boy crew Expression take breakdancing in another direction, opening Korea up to a more international audience that actually was in awe of its strength, flavour and dedication.

Years have passed and Korea’s Hip Hop roots have grown stronger. World-wide, Korea has garnered the respect of Hip Hop heavy weights like the Universal Zulu Nation, one of the oldest and official organizations of Hip Hop. You don’t get any more legit than that!!!

Bea writes for Rap / Hip Hop Music’s HardKnockRadio . Check her latest on famous rap video girls. Or if you like to play, read her thoughts about beginner piano lessons at Sherwoodmusic.org.

  1. For newbies, the four elements of Hip Hop are:

    • The DJ
    • Break dancing
    • The MC
    • Graffiti art

    Oh, and the 5th element is the culture and knowledge. []

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