Trot Is Hot

Jardín Kim

Lead Korean Writer

There is a performing arts center near my home. I was walking past a merch booth displaying print-photo t-shirts, handheld fans, and hair bands, and it occurred to me that the elbowing crowd surrounding the booth looked to be well over sixty. There was excitement in the air. Not the screaming kind of teen fandom, but oozing exuberance that makes mature shoulders undulate. Later, I learned that this place was the venue for the Mister Trot TOP7 concert.

Trot, also called adult pop or ppongjjak, is a major Korean music genre. As the name adult pop suggests, it has traditionally been popular among older generations, but I’ve seen children belt out a trot tune or two in style. Doing so makes a big difference in their gift money on holidays or grandparents’ birthday parties. Trot can be divided into two big categories, sentimental sad songs and happy, upbeat songs. The latter is often sung by young people in group settings. Nothing boosts team spirit like “A Southbound Train” (남행열차) or “Unconditional Love” (무조건) sung in unison. That kind of solidarity makes bitter soju taste sweeter than soda and the freshman you just met seem like your new best friend.

At any rate, the trot I used to hear when passing by delinquent seniors drinking in broad daylight at a neighborhood park can now be heard anytime, any place. And sung by a new singer I’ve never heard of before. Song Ga-in, who is she? She’s the winner of Miss Trot Season 1, the diva who forever changed the territory for trot in the Korean music industry, the living legend who had a park built in her honor in her hometown of Jindo. And when Lim Young-woong became the winner of Mister Trot Season 1, the entire landscape of music changed. It’s as if a rainbow appeared in the dreary lives of the elderly. Clamoring for “our Young-woong,” they sprang to life and into action with more spirit than any spirited youth.

One thing that keeps the older fans busy is “s’ming,” which is short for “streaming.” When their favorite singers release a new song, they stream the song nonstop to raise its ranking on the media platform. These older fans are all over online communities and social media. How can this be when many of them can’t even order food on self-serve kiosks? I hear that there are study groups for them. If there are study groups for learning English or book discussions, why not one dedicated to their Young-woong? Some fans contribute regularly to commemorate the singer’s birthday or debut day. As his name suggests, he truly is a “hero” (young woong) who can change the world.

My mother, who has never had a hobby in her life, is fully on board with trot’s huge resurgence in popularity. She has rekindled her love of Na Hoon-a, the granddaddy of trot. Na debuted in 1966, so she wasted a half a century before declaring herself an ardent fan. When I point this out, she has a quick comeback, a trot song made for times just like this: “What’s Wrong With My Age?” Trot is hot, and this is the perfect age for obsessive fandom.

Translator: Culture Flipper English Team
Original Content in Korean:
Japanese Translation: