North America has a punk scene. Europe has a punk scene. Seoul has a punk scene.
Now, even in Daegu that wouldn’t be a big deal, but in a city where your live music options seems to consist of noraebangs and more noraebangs it’s easy to forget that this country can actually produce music that isn’t lame pop or hip-hop.
Recently a few punk bands from Seoul came down to Busan for a show and to spread the gospel of punk. One of these bands was The Geeks. They’re a straightedge hardcore band that recently returned from a tour of America. (For those of you that don’t know, straightedge is a lifestyle, embraced by some in the punk scene, which encourages abstinence from drinking or using recreational drugs.)
While the show in Busan didn’t have much moshing, and wasn’t as well attended as you might expect for a city of over three million people, it still encouraged Ki Seok Seo, lead singer of The Geeks. “We had so much fun playing in Busan,” he says, “I hope there will be a big hardcore and punk scene in Busan someday.”
However, at the moment Korea’s punk scene is based in Seoul. Seo says, “there are numerous good bands and kids caring about hardcore and trying to keep it alive in a weak environment.” While Seo may claim the scene is weak, there are multiple labels and more than enough bands to make albums, EPs, 7-inches, badges and compilation albums. You may not find every obscure subgenre of punk, but you’ll find something to satisfy you.
Seo has been straight edge for more than ten years. He first discovered the idea through the seminal bands Minor Threat and Youth of Today, “I hadn’t done any smoking or drinking in my life at that point, and felt that those weren’t for me.” Seo felt that the lyrics of these bands and others reflected how he felt and that straightedge gave him a foundation for his life. “I know how I feel and how to cope with situations,” he says, “I took control of myself.”
According to Seo being straight edge in Korea is basically the same as in other countries. “I dare to say there seems that more peer pressure exists in Korea,” he says, “Korea is based on a strong drinking culture.” While many of his friends and relatives believe that he is out of step with the world, Seo feels the situation in Korea is improving.
Seo feels that he can enjoy himself without outside influences, and if his performance on stage is anything to base this on, it’s certainly true. However Seo doesn’t believe everyone should be the same as him, “I definitely know there’re positive aspects of drinking and smoking but I just choose what is right for me.”
The punk scene in Korea is still growing and Seo intends to be part of it for a long time. “I just can’t imagine my life without hardcore,” he says. “It is no question that the best times of my life, in every aspect, are playing our music, hanging out with my friends and making new friends: What more can you possibly ask for?”