Why Young Singers Love Korea’s Oldest Pop Genre

The successful debut of the young singer Jang Yoon-jeong in 2005 with the song “Oh My Goodness” revived the dying genre of Trot, Korea’s oldest pop music style. Music producers rolled up their sleeves to nurture young Trot singers, and the fruit was Park Hyun-bin. Love of the genre is not limited to pure practitioners. Even the manufactured band Super Junior has tried to fuse it with dance music. Music critic Lim Jin-mo explains that what is now called “semi-Trot” appeals to a young generation who are fond of light, upbeat music they can listen to on the internet or their mobile phones. Similar to Japanese enka, Trot is believed to have developed in parallel during the Japanese occupation. The Chosun Ilbo asked young singers what caused them to fall in love with Trot.

◆ Jang Yoon-jeong (27)

I think Trot is like earthenware: it takes quite a bit of time to heat up but needs an equal amount of time to cool down. It’s no exaggeration to say that Trot songs last forever once they become popular. My hit song “Oh My Goodness” is still loved by many people, maybe because Trot songs are light and easy in terms of melody and lyrics but express deep emotion, which appeals to Korean hearts. For me, I like the genre because it’s very easy to sing.

◆ Kang In (24) of Super Junior T

Trot is the Korean equivalent of Hip Hop and Rap, which express raw feelings unfiltered — though they sometimes contain swearwords. Trot songs, too, never beat about the bush. Think about the lyric, “My love for you has no conditions attached, never.” How clear and easy that is! That is how Hip Hop is, too. Trot is addictive because anyone is bound to sing along once they hear it a couple of times and never get tired of it no matter how many times they hear it. I think with a little twist the genre could develop into a pan-Asian style.

◆ Lee Teuk (24) of Super Junior T

Trot has the power to unite different generations and all walks of life. Everybody is happy when they sing a Trot song together at a karaoke place during a social gathering. Upbeat songs make people move their shoulders up and down in excitement, while downbeat songs make you sad. I just feel that Trot is very different from other genres such as dance and ballads.

◆ Shin Dong (24) of Super Junior T

Trot is good for dancing. It’s easy to dance to Trot songs because the lyrics are mostly direct and overt in expressing feelings and situations. Of course, that’s only true of upbeat songs. Another thing I like about the genre is that there is a lot of room for a twist on original songs. The same song can turn out totally different depending on who arranges or sings it, because the composition is clear and simple.

◆ Park Hyun-bin (25)

It’s impossible to perform Trot without honesty. Although I’m young, I’ve found it hard to sing a song well if I don’t associate it with my own experience. And Trot isn’t affected by fashions or trends. That’s because there is something in the genre that touches the instinctive core of people’s hearts. Straightforward and realistic lyrics may be another factor. It’s easy but honest.

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