South Korean indie music refers to the independent music scene thriving in Korea, which was developed in the 1990s in Hongdae, an area of North-western Seoul. K-Indie is often regarded as co-existing with K-Pop, almost a counterpart of K-Pop. However, they’re widely different. While K-Pop has an imminent focus on commercialization, promotion, and the aspect of “business,” indie music is characterized by a low-key profile with few promotional activities and instead focuses on just music.
The first modern wave of Indie music swept over South Korea after the end of the oppressive military regime in 1987, coinciding with the rise of South Korea's popular culture during the early to mid-1990s. With the IMF crisis of Korea, came the wave of K-Pop, which was widely used to reconstruct the economy and establish South Korea on the world’s stage. While older and more experienced rock musicians attempted to revive their musical careers, the younger generation developed a new punk rock community in Hongdae. Today, indie music has developed into a genre of its own and also has a devoted following. You can spot indie music by its likeness to R&B, soft and mellow tunes, as well as flowy, light vocals complemented by acoustics. However, indie is not limited to any particular genre and stretches along with the kinds of punk, rock, and jazz as well. While K-Pop is undoubtedly amazing in its own right, K-Indie deserves due praise.
Singer, songwriter DVWN (stylized as DA￦N), has been in the music industry for quite a while now. Not only does he create beautiful music but he also writes for popular K-Pop artists such as Eric Nam. His album is freely available to stream on Youtube as well as Soundcloud for that’s where he debuted in the first place. DVWN is now signed to Zico’s agency KOZ Entertainment.
OFFONOFF is an indie duo under YG Entertainment’s sub-label HIGHGRND, but they started off on Soundcloud as well. The group consists of 0Channel and Colde, both quite well known in the K-HipHop and K-R&B industry.
STANDING EGG is a magically dreamy acoustic indie-pop band under Von Entertainment. They’re known for their soft concepts and music videos, as well as for their brilliant lyricism. The debut album of Standing Egg had zero promotion and was released to the public via Twitter. Their music video for “La La La” was fan-made, but the song charted on several music charts. Since then, the band is known for their ability to create chart-topping indie hits with little to no promotion.
SLCHLD’s music is incomparably lovely. Speaking often of love lost and love found, one can find resonance with their lyrics no matter their emotions. The artist explores multiple genres from R&B to jazz and Hip-Hop to folk. His voice even has the quality of lending comfort with only a few words, and his collaborations with other Korean indie artists such as OCEAN and RHEEBAB are undoubtedly exceptional.
MORNING is another one of the lesser-known indie artists that started their career off on Soundcloud. While they’re still considerably underground, their music is nonetheless a treat for the ears. MORNING songs are often re-uploaded on Youtube as part of several K-Indie playlists, and they have an exceptional presence in the community.
Starting on Soundcloud, RHEEHAB achieved exceptional success on the platform before being signed to Anotherview Label. He has been writing lyrics since he was a child, which clearly shows in the music he creates as a fully realized artist. His music is available now on all music platforms such as Spotify and iTunes and highly recommended for anyone looking for a warm hug in the form of music. If you're looking for new music, look no further for RHEEHAB has just dropped his new EP, 'Pearl in LOVE,' available for free on Youtube.
Singer, songwriter, and producer LambC is one of the more well-known artists on the list, signed to Happy Robot Records. Under the overarching umbrella term of “indie,” LambC also dabbles in genres such as jazz, funk, and ballads.
WOODZ has an artistic style that is not quite here nor there, and as such, it is hard to fit his music into a specific label. While it is arguable whether his music is indie or not, he’s certainly an artist that deserves more attention. He had a considerable past as an idol before turning to solo music and his experience makes him even better at what he does. With an airy voice full of soul, everything he creates is sure to leave an impression.
Finally, one of the indie music scene pioneers, The Black Skirts or Jo Hyu Il, is an indie rock musician who gained recognition and notoriety ever since he released his debut album ‘201’, produced by Kia Eshghi. The Black Skirts is as indie as it gets for this album was recorded entirely in his basement. Later that year, he won Best Modern Rock Album at the Korean Music Awards. In 2016, The Black Skirts signed with HIGHGRND but soon left the label to work under his own company Doggy Rich. Even today, he remains one of the most important indie artists deserving of recognition even from the mainstream media.