Lesser known Korean music genres

Because K-pop is not the sole genre around; it is merely more popular.

Grace Neo

Published: 2 February 2015, 9:35 PM

K-pop is not a stranger to many but we are guilty of generalising any Korean music as K-pop, just because the songs are in Korean. However, there are other lesser known genres in Korean music industrygenres which possess unique charms of their own. From K-indie to trot, this list is bound to expose you to a wider range of Korean music.


Also known as the poorer cousin of K-pop, artistes in K-Indie scene are hardly able to make music for a living. While most of them shy away from music shows, you can find hundreds of indie bands in Hongdae, where they earnestly busk along the streets and in café bars.

J. Rabbit is pretty well known in Korea but not so in foreign lands. This acoustic duo is like a breath of fresh air and they only get stronger with every new album released.

J-Rabbit: Happy Things

If J. Rabbit is not your sound, try HLin, an indie-rock band that produces music which gives off a darker and heavier vibe. In fact, the mystery and sadness in the vocalist’s voice is more than enough to draw you in.

HLIN: Remember Tree

Alternative Rock

The genre of rock is not well-established in South Korea yet. Idol bands who have attempted having rock as their core genre ended up facing disbandment or member line-up changes. As a genre which focuses on non-conformist attitude and distorted guitar sounds, it only became well-known worldwide in early 90s, popularized by Nirvana.

Inspired by the lead singer of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Jung Joon Young debuted as a rock singer in 2012 through the Korean music competition: Superstar K4. His passion for alternative rock and image as a rock singer is captivating and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Jung Jun Young - Teenager


This unique genre has evolved over the years, from traditional folk to contemporary folk. One of the most successful pop folk musicians these days is none other than Ed Sheeran. That being said, Korean musicians are also capable of producing quality folk songs which are both meaningful and heartfelt.

Yoon Do Hyun is one legendary singer who is able to code-switch between folk and hard rock flawlessly. He took folk a step further with his latest solo album, in which this hard rock singer collaborated with a rapper and ballad singer for a pre-release track. The three different genres complemented each other seamlessly and blended into a song which was an eye-opener to many.


Trot originated during the Japanese rule in the early 1900s and is said to be the oldest form of Korean pop music. Its popularity died down in 1990s but was later revived by famous singers and well known idols in the 20th century.

Otherwise known as the ‘Trot Queen’, Hong Jin Young had her trot debut in 2009 and her career has been continuously soaring ever since. Her songs are prime examples of legit trot music.

Big Bang is well known as a Hip-Hop and R&B K-pop group but when one of its members, Daesung, released his solo trot song (composed by fellow member G-Dragon), it gathered much attention. With his rising popularity in Japan, it is no wonder that he produced a Japanese version for this song as well.

You may like these