Squeaky clean, slickly choreographed boy or girl bands may be the signature sound of Seoul, but there’s a “thriving underbelly of Korean music beyond K-Pop”, according to Theo Spark of Anglo-Korean duo Wooze (pictured, left). But, he adds, it’s thanks to South Korea’s $5 billion K-pop machine that a new wave of so-called “K-indie” acts are starting to get airtime overseas. Signed by Young Poet Records, Wooze share an agent with Radiohead and released their first EP this year.
Other acts are more established: alt-soundscapist CIFIKA – AKA Yousun Cho, 27, from Seoul – has just finished the longest US tour of any South Korean act. This included an appearance at Korea Spotlight, an annual showcase at SXSW Festival which changed its name from K-Pop Night Out in 2018 to reflect the county’s diversifying sounds. “It’s still an underground scene,” she told i-D earlier this year. “But it’s slowly growing.” Both home and abroad, it turns out: just east of Seoul’s indie-arts college district Hongdae, the annual Seoul Fringe Festival (15–24 August) returns next month with its biggest line-up yet. Culture with a capital K.