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Seo Tai-ji’s Shadow

Posted December. 06, 2007 08:32,   

한국어

Seo Tai-ji lived up to his name again.

At the last minutes of the ‘Seo Tae-ji 15th Anniversary Concert’ held on December 1 at KBS 88 Stadium, Deungchon-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, white letters began to appear on the large black screen.

“I once thought that your whispers were no more than scents that would fade due to the sorcery of times. You stay true against the sorcery of times. Thank you.” followed by Fans’ shouting, “I love you!”

The concert was given in the form of a tribute concert, where Epik High, Sweet Sorrow, Nell, Pia, and other musicians performed Seo Tae-ji’s hits. Seo Tae-ji, the director and hero of this concert, never showed up. But still, 4,000 fans, who knew that he wouldn’t be there, filled the stadium’s seats.

This is only one of many recent cases of Seo Tae-ji’s shadow cast over the Korean pop music. He has engendered a number of issues, drawing his fans together without showing up his face.

For 3 hours starting at 6:00 P.M. on November 29, something extraordinary happened at Hot Tracks in Kyobo Book Centre, Gwanghwamun. When Seo Tae-ji’s album commemorating his 15th anniversary as a musician was released, 400 people who made reservations lined up to buy it. Jeong Ju-won, a team leader at Kyobo Book Centre expressed his astonishment, saying, “This is the first time in 3 to 4 years that people have lined up to buy an album.” For a week before the release of the album, 300 to 400 people per day called Hot Tracks asking whether there were CDs available. The story was much the same at Mzone in COEX, where a sales event was held on the same day for a limited run of the ‘Yepp P2 Seo Tae-ji Special Edition’ CD. 1,000 people gathered at the event, which sold a hundred mp3 players with hand-written autographs of Seo Tae-ji priced between 260,000 and 330,000 won.

Regarding this phenomenon, a music critic said, “It’s a mere marketing strategy to earn money with old fame. If his fame is so great, shouldn’t he be doing something to revive Korean pop music from its current state of coma rather than to arouse customer interest with limited edition sales?”

On the contrary, others argue that Seo Tae-ji is a mirror that reflects the poor reality of Korean pop music. They say that it is difficult to criticize him because he is selling tickets solely through his music, whereas other musicians depend on external factors such as showing up on TV entertainment programs.

Most of the audiences at the concert that day were members of the Seo Tae-ji generation made up of people in their mid or late 20s who grew up listening to Seo Tae-ji. They ranged from a teacher at private institute who used to be a member of the fan club as a child to office workers who came with friends with whom he had stayed up all night on the day of the concert for Seo Tae-ji’s 6th album, Ultramania. Lee Jin-a (27•graduate school student), one of the fans at the concert, explained why she is so crazy about Seo Tae-ji: “Because it’s Seo Tae-ji, and there is no other musician like him.”



salthj@donga.com