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Special Features, Original Features

Way Back Wednesday: Hyun Jin Young, the very first SM artist

By GhostWriter   Wednesday, May 11, 2016   37,254   1,689   26
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This is Way Back Wednesday where we feature a blast from the past.

SM Entertainment is the biggest of the Big 3, having the largest market cap on Korea's KOSDAQ. The company might be a huge entity now but it had humble beginnings. After studying and earning a Master's degree at California State University, NorthridgeLee Soo Man returned to Korea in 1989 and officially established 'SM Studio'. Lee Soo Man was exposed to American music during his stay and this was around the time MTV became a major force. With this in mind, he returned to Korea with a clear vision on how he wanted to change the Korean music landscape.


SEE ALSO: 'Produce 101' becomes 'Produce 98' with two more trainees leaving the show


Hip Hop was very popular in the United States and Lee Soo Man wanted to bring this over to Korea. The Roger Rabbit dance was very popular at the time and Lee Soo Man saw that the Korean music landscape didn't really have any performers who would actively dance to the music. Lee Soo Man decided to hold an audition in 1989 on who could best perform the Roger Rabbit dance.


Insert Hyun Jin Young

Hyun Jin Young was born in Seoul on February 3, 1971. He grew up in Gijichon, near a U.S. military base and his interactions with the American soldiers and their children exposed him to Hip Hop at a very early age. He was never good in school and his mind was always on dancing and rapping, so he dropped out of high school. One day he came across Lee Soo Man's audition and decided to try out.


Lee Soo Man saw Hyun Jin Young doing the Roger Rabbit dance and was very impressed, he decided to sign him to SM Studio. However, Hyun Jin Young didn't immediately debut as a solo artist, instead he was a backup dancer for Lee Soo Man's own solo career. After being a backup dancer and training under Lee Soo Man, Hyun Jin Young made his debut in 1990 with "Sad mannequin."



This might seem tame and a bit silly now but back then it was game changing and even a bit controversial. He introduced a bit of swag, rapping, and hip hop to Korea. Unfortunately for him and Lee Soo Man, the first album flopped with poor sales. (Interesting note: Hyun Jin Young's backup dancers would go on to become influential Hip Hop artists in their own right - Deux and Clon).


After restrategizing, Hyun Jin Young returned to the music scene in 1992. This time he was even more Hip Hop influenced and wore popular urban clothing including Cross Colours.



His career was projecting upwards but unfortunately for him, he was caught with drugs and went to jail in 1993. He never really recovered from this and his name slowly faded away over time. Lee Soo Man had also moved on and changed 'SM Studio' to 'SM Entertainment' in 1995. Legendary group H.O.T. made their debut that year with the hip hop theme "Warrior's Descendant" but after that release, Lee Soo Man and SM shifted their focus from hip hop to other genres.


Hyun Jin Young recently appeared on variety shows after filing for bankruptcy in 2014. He revealed how in his heyday he would spend upwards of $150,000 on his credit card to buy gifts for friends and family. Unfortunately, those bad spending habits resulted in financial difficulty.


Seo Taiji is often credited as the pioneer of hip hop in Korea but it was actually Hyun Jin Young who introduced Korea to hip hop. He might be forgotten by many people but he'll always be inside the dim memory of Korean hip hop fans of the early 90's. 

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    masayume_chasing Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Thank you allkpop for this interesting article! It's funny knowing that SM started swag-ishly when nowadays hip hop and swag is ofted synonymous with YG out of big three. I hope you'll write the same for YG and JYP :)

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    Francias1 masayume_chasing Thursday, May 12, 2016

    but now SMTOWN is bringing hiphop so who knows?

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    phili721 Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Finally an article with substance instead of those 1 sentence articles lol

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    federick Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    so they started with Hiphop too

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    crookedshanks Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    I've been listening to a lot of 90s Kpop, so this was right up my alley, thanks AKP~!

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    chimcanhcut Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Thanks for helpful information!

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    youcangoeatshit Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Hot DILF (refer to the article picture)

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    Leyzell Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Wow lee soo man...

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    iisstf28 Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    I really like Way Back Wednesday... Lee Soo Man was really such a huge influence to kpop!

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    ilikeJB Wednesday, May 11, 2016



    2PM and Got7 reviving one of his songs in MBC Festival last year.

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    Nutelladela Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Interesting to hear about what a visionary Lee So Man was back in the day. SM has lost a lot of respect today for their commercialization of humans and groups, producing artists like they're products in a factory. It almost makes me sad to read the dreams this company had before it became money hungry.

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    chenyue10 Nutelladela Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    I read about this in a kpop book. It said that Lee soo man started to use idol system because Hyun Jinyoung didn't end well. So he created a system where idols are trained and controlled to behave well. This prevent most idols under his company to not get into drugs and act generally well.

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    Fan Nutelladela Thursday, May 12, 2016

    You are talking like they are machine and only sm cares about money. Lol. Which company doesn't care money? At least SM has vision and ideals unlike most of the big company around here. They're always came with new ideaa and try hard to expand kpop industry and spread it around the world. What's wrong training people? Machine factory my ass. LSM's artists the most talented, most sincere most lovable persons in this industry. They're raise good children not machines. They have still that dreams and sadly some of their dreams led you think this lowly about the company. You are just blind and ignorant and way too influenced by dirt fake informations and manipulations

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    masayume_chasing chenyue10 Thursday, May 12, 2016

    What's the author and book's name?

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