Seo Taiji (서태지) – Sogyeokdong (소격동)

"The cover is an artwork that metaphorically depicts an innocent girl and the symbols that are in contrast. We decided to express the entire theme of the album through a girl that had both fear and curiosity towards the world she faced." (x)

“The cover is an artwork that metaphorically depicts an innocent girl and the symbols that are in contrast. We decided to express the entire theme of the album through a girl that had both fear and curiosity towards the world she faced.” (x)

The way I saw Seo Taiji and his music changed drastically for the last few days. It might have something to do with his appearance in Happy Together. I had thought he would be a serious man, but he wasn’t at all. He was just calm and gentle, even hilarious (whether he intended to or not). He talked about his wife being a fan of IU and she used to listen to IU’s songs during the time when they dated (she’s same age as me, maybe we could form a 88-line IU’s fan or something, ha ha), and that he thought the main reason for Sogyeokdong to top charts right upon its release must be thanks to IU. When Myungsoo mentioned IU sent him ginseng (again, it was the 2nd time I heard about this, lol), Seo Taiji said he received it from IU, too. It was funny to see these ahjussis proving how close they are to IU.

When Seo Taji’s version of Sogyeokdong was released, I had a bit of mixed feeling. Although I had known his voice from the Happy Together clip, I was still taken aback. To be honest, he sounded somehow girly to me at times, especially at the beginning. It got better along the way though, and I liked it already the second time I watched. This morning when I woke up, as usual for these current days, I grabbed my headphones and listened to music with my eyes closed and my mind still being in a haze. It felt perfect. His voice, the music, its soul. Everything.

After watching his version and also the director’s cut, it still wasn’t clear what happened to the girl, but I had my own interpretation. So she tripped while running to the taxi. Her bleeding lips might be from her abusive father then. She got the boy’s attention but was still shy when being caught in a state she didn’t want him to see. They went on to have a beautiful relationship, with all the pure and soft and tender of a young couple. Awkward and shy, fragile but important. The girl’s family was involved in protests or activities against the military government at the time though, and the police came to take (at least) the father away for “re-education”. The girl might be taken away, too, or she was put into the orphanage. Years later, they came back. Same place, different times. They didn’t meet each other, but I liked to think it wouldn’t stay that way forever. The paper-crane he picked up at the end, it could be the message that she left, right? I liked to think of it as an open ending with high possibility of happiness. I read a comment about don’t expect happy ending from Seo Taiji’s music (lol), but I have the tendency to head to the light, so I will keep my interpretation that way.

It was interesting to know that Seo Taiji spent his childhood in this area. I supposed it was a good material to start with. Up until now, I still find it fascinating how well-thought and well-executed this project is. I mean, Seo Taiji managed to get people interested in Korea’s history. I saw people asking and some others appeared to be quite dedicated to explain. Even if it was just a small part of the history, people had the chance to get to know about it in a creative way. From this dark background, Seo Taiji told a sad but beautiful love story, one that was full of longing and would stay in people’s mind for a very long time.

Another interesting thing was that this collaboration was so unique. It was rare to see a collaboration which was not a duet (I actually don’t remember any on top of my mind right now). It was also a brilliant idea to have IU’s version to tell the story in the eyes of the boys, and Seo Taiji’s version filling the missing pieces by the heart of the girl. Breaking typical logic all the time. Brilliant, brilliant.

It caught me by surprise that Sogyeokdong was only a pre-release, only a stepping stone to a bigger release later on. Such a meticulous piece of work was just only the beginning of something bigger? I heard about it in comment section before but I doubted, now of course apparently his fans/people who followed his music for a long time knew it better. Keotronvo told me that Sogyeokdong was more of a song for IU. I would have doubted it before, but I saw the most recent teaser for his title track MV earlier today and I thought there might be some truth about it. Seo Taiji was versatile and he could easily step into many genres, he was good in Sogyeokdong but look at this.

I was never a big fan of Halloween, scary stuffs would never be in my interest, but unbelievably I found myself liking this teaser. I hadn’t known Seo Taiji before Sogyeokdong, but I knew instinctively this was clearly more like him. Some people might say IU wasn’t suitable for Sogyeokdong, but I believed she was the most suitable choice. Seo Taiji might not be as serious of a person as people painted him to be, but obviously he was serious with his music, and he chose IU. IU’s popularity was built solidly from her ability to deliver music in its most possibly artistic way, he must have realized it. The fact that Seo Taiji’s wife could be a fan of IU and IU was well-received by the public could add to that but I didn’t think those would be the main reason. And IU did well. It felt a bit silly, I was a bit afraid to admit I liked IU’s version more. I shouldn’t be afraid of it though. Seo Taiji wrote, composed, produced the song, yes, but it didn’t necessarily equal with expressing it best. He suited more to the title song, for sure. My preference was also subjective. I liked IU’s version more didn’t mean I was looking down on IU’s senior, it was just me having an opinion on a “good vs. better” subject which I should be honest with myself. When two versions of a song were to be released, it was bound to be compared. Whether I liked it or not, I unconsciously compared them.

Talking about comparison, I also noticed that Seo Taiji’s version had higher tone than IU’s. It was an coincidence. I planned to listen to Seo Taiji’s version first but iTunes played IU’s one first, my laptop was slow so before I could switch to Seo Taiji’s version, I heard a bit of the beginning from IU’s. It was a small incident that made me smile.

All in all, I really liked this Sogyeokdong project. It should absolutely be something that both Seo Taiji and IU could be proud of. I was glad Seo Taiji trusted IU in this. I wondered whether it would be a duet between them during his concert, but thankfully MBC was set to broadcast it so it would be a good chance to spot it in higher quality than fancams. I also wondered which version would be put into his album, I wouldn’t think it would be IU’s version, but would it be Seo Taiji’s version only or would it be duet? Hm, this way of arranging obviously kept my anticipation. Additionally, Seo Taiji succeeded in converting me to be interested in his stuff. I was very willingly to translate news about his teaser from English to Vietnamese to kites. Well, I don’t regret to get to know better about a legend, one who appreciates IU and has good music.


One thought on “Seo Taiji (서태지) – Sogyeokdong (소격동)

  1. Thank you very much for this post 🙂 🙂
    You can read the story behind this beautiful master piece “Sogyeok-dong” browsing: “Ask a Korean!: History Behind Seo Taiji’s Sogyeokdong”
    And to know more about this village today please browse: “[PHOTO STORY] Find Seo Taiji’s Trace in Sogyeokdong”
    The boy in the MV is supposed to be Seotaiji himself, when he was a kid and lived in Sogyeok-dong. He didn’t gave many details, but he did say the song was about his childhood, plus many of his songs are known to be about his own experiences, and there are many coincidences, like the village Sogyeok-dong, the ages of the kids at that time and Samcheon river. We don’t know whether the girl is still alive, I bet not even Seotaiji knows that, they’ll never meet again. Seotaiji resided in the US for many years, but he returned to Korea about 2 years ago and he visited Sogyeok-dong again. In the MV he assumes the girl also visited this place in all these years.
    I agree the music, the lyrics and the MV are wonderful, even when many things must have changed, and we didn’t live those days if we compare the pictures of Sogyeok-dong back then, it’s exactly the same as we see the in the MV. That’s amazing!
    And WOW, is so unique!!!

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