When one thinks of the origins of K-Pop, images of meticulously trained young idols, high-production music videos, and dedicated fanbases come to mind. But did you know that the story of the first-ever K-Pop group began in a rather unexpected and quirky manner?
Almost every K-Pop fan out there knows that Seo Taiji and Boys pioneered what we now call K-Pop. But not many know how the group was formed and how it all goes back to Yang Hyunsuk‘s dance skills.
Mostly known for creating K-Pop titans like BIGBANG and BLACKPINK, the founder of YG Entertainment believed he was the best dancer of his time — which is what drew the genius himself, Seo Taiji, to him.
It all began in a nightclub. Yang was approached by Seo Taiji, an unfamiliar face, with an unusual request — he wanted to learn to dance.
Seo Taiji first approached me, asking what he needed to do to learn how to dance.
— Yang Hyunsuk
With a hint of skepticism and hoping to discourage the young hopeful, Yang boldly asked for three advanced payments of ₩1.50 million KRW (about $1,120 USD) each. To his astonishment, Seo Taiji immediately wired over ₩4.50 million KRW (about $3,360 USD), a clear sign of his unwavering determination.
The story takes another twist as Seo Taiji, eager to learn, would film Yang’s moves almost obsessively, but a slight oversight led him to practice using the mirrored videos. As a result, all of his learned dance movements were unintentionally reversed!
The journey was not without its roadblocks. Before Yang could impart his dance knowledge, he was conscripted into the military. As time went on with no word from Yang, Seo Taiji believed he had been duped and nearly abandoned his aspirations of being a dancer-singer.
However, Yang Hyunsuk was discharged from the military due to a heart condition and reconnected with Seo Taiji. By this time, Seo Taiji was already preparing his solo album, and the song “I Know” was in the making.
Yang’s immediate realization was that “I Know” needed to be more than just a song — it required a distinct dance and fashion identity. Rather than Taiji learning dance from another, Yang proposed the formation of a team with professional dancers.
A hesitant wait later, Taiji invited Yang to join his team. Yang, feigning reluctance, agreed.
But what’s a band without a little more drama? Enter Lee Juno.
As Yang and Taiji’s bond solidified, Juno felt left out, considering he and Yang had once vowed to embark on their singing careers together. Addressing the oversight, Juno approached Yang, expressing his feelings of betrayal.
We used to say that if one of us became a singer, we would do it together, so Lee Juno was probably really upset with me.
— Yang Hyunsuk
This heart-to-heart led to Juno’s inclusion, albeit a month before the group’s debut. An amusing twist? Juno’s voice isn’t present in the debut album of Seo Taiji and Boys, a subtle reminder of his last-minute addition.
Such unpredictable twists and turns underline the formation of Seo Taiji and Boys, one of the most iconic music groups in the world. It’s not just about music but about passion, friendship, and the relentless pursuit of dreams.