Us & Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World (2014, 40 min.)
Us & Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World
2014, 40 minutes, co-produced by Stephen Epstein & Timothy Tangherlini
Screening sponsored by the Asian Film and Media Initiative in the Department of Cinema Studies.
In-person introduction by producer Stephen Epstein.
The spread of South Korean popular music, or K-pop, has been a striking global phenomenon. In 2012 PSY’s viral sensation “Gangnam Style” became the most viewed video on YouTube ever, generating over a billion hits and scores of imitations. But Korean music is not only idol groups and viral videos. There is also a vibrant indie and punk scene that has been active for the past two decades.
A lot of the energy driving the scene has come in opposition to mainstream Korean music. Yet, just as K-pop is becoming more well-known internationally, bands from the Korean underground are now touring overseas and have become more professional in their own pursuit of global connections.
The documentary follows several of Korea's most well-known indie bands as they embark on their first US tours in 2011. The spotlight lands in particular on Crying Nut, the endearing godfathers of Korean underground rock; the stylish RockTigers, Korea's most successful rockabilly band; and Whatever That Means..., a melodic punk band led by a married couple--bass player Trash and her American guitarist husband. The documentary's compelling portrait of the Korean indie scene offers sharp insights into a society that is in the midst of frequently dizzying change. The film is narrated by noted Korean-American musician Mike Park of Skankin’ Pickle and the B. Lee Band and the founder of DIY label Asian Man Records.
Associate Professor Stephen Epstein is the Director of the Asian Studies Programme at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and served as the 2013-14 President of the New Zealand Asian Studies Society. He has published widely on contemporary Korean society, literature and popular culture and translated numerous pieces of Korean and Indonesian fiction, including the novels Who Ate Up All The Shinga? by Park Wan-suh (Columbia University Press, 2009), The Long Road by Kim In-suk (MerwinAsia, 2010) and Telegram by Putu Wijaya (Lontar Foundation, 2011). He has co-produced two documentaries on the Korean indie music scene, Us & Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-pop world (2014) and Our Nation: A Korean Punk Rock Community (2002). He co-edited Complicated Currents: Media Flows, Soft Power and East Asia (Monash University Publications, 2010) and is currently completing a sourcebook on the Korean Wave for the Academy of Korean Studies.