Korean Punk Rock Discussion

The Korean punks in the video resemble punks found in other parts of the world. Bleached spiky hair, dog collars around the neck, studded wristbands, thrash-boots, ripped jeans, anthemic T-shirts, and other forms of punk rock style are very similar to the style popularized by Western Punk movements. But what lies beneath the surface of these traditional punk trappings that makes Korean punks different from punks in New York City, Tokyo, or any other place in the world? What is the relationship between punk rock and the formation of a community of young people that inhabit the music venue known as Club Drug in the art school district of Seoul called Hongnik? These questions were the focus of the discussion within our group and were explored in the film.

In summary, our group discussed how Our Nation also deals with the pressures of life in an urban setting, focusing on the constraints and expectations placed on young adults in contemporary Korean society. The film began with the drummer of punk band Crying Nut, Yi Sang-hyok, explaining that the Korean punks at Club Drug call their music Choson punk instead of just punk. This indicated to us that the Korean Punk community, while to an outside perspective appears to be influenced by Western Punk culture, was a product of their own culture and a unique take on the global Punk movement .

Our group also found the scene of a typical, monolithic, Seoul apartment building, where a punk song from Crying Nut is playing in the background, vaguely reminiscient of an old British movie called Rude Boy. The scene in Our Nation resembles footage from the beginning of the film Rude Boy (1980), which featured the British rock group The Clash and explored the importance of the original punk movement in the lives of British youth in the late 1970s. Like postwar British apartment buildings, the buildings in Seoul are frighteningly indistinct and convey the alienation and anonymity of urban existence. Similar to Rude BoyOur Nation attempts to capture the appeal of punk culture from the dual perspectives of those who play the music and of the fans. By focusing on Club Drug and its bands and clientele, the film shows how the club is a source for a subculture amid the dehumanizing and developing backdrop of modern Seoul.

When our group discussed how Appadurai and Patterson fit into the discussion of the Korean Punk movement, and the three components outlined in the assignment, we determined that while this particular movement had influences from British Punk Rock and other Western sources, we did not conclude that cultural transition occurs inevitably from the West to the rest, but that when Western cultures become global, they are more widely publicized in mass media messages that make the cultural flows seem to travel inevitably from West to the rest. Also, our group disagreed with the idea of cultural homogenization, especially with this example.  Physically, yes, the Korean punk community and its members resemble those in the West, but what made the Korean Punk movement unique was not the surface appearance that could easily be interpreted as a Western product.  The community and family that developed as a result of Club Drug and the movement resembles what we discussed as a class on January 23rd with how global communities have the power to pick and choose aspects of Western cultures to reinterpret and that Punk Rock was simply a choice of the Korean youth to reinterpret as their own.

In brief, the Korean Punk movement may mirror the Western Punk movement on the surface, but the underlying practices and communities that developed are very different which results in the transformation of culture when it is introduced into a new environment.

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