South Korean Punk Rockers Make Their Own North Korean LegendBy Tess Duncan
What do you do when you’re curious about a sound that doesn’t exist yet? You make it happen yourself! That’s just what Oh Do-ham, bassist for South Korean punk band the Aungdaungs did. Enlisting the help of other talented, like-minded musicians like Yu Ji-wan of the Alligators, Do-ham and company decided that, since there are no punk rock bands in North Korea, they would produce a fictional North Korean punk legend themselves through recordings and performance art. Thus, the rockstar Ri Seong-woong was born.
Seong-woong’s birth required extensive research, mostly from conversations with defectors living in South Korea (of which there are over 23,000). Ji-wan wanted to know more about day-to-day living in North Korea, as he already knew plenty about the political situations (that’s not to say that politics don’t play a role in Seong-woong’s status as a “legend”). True events inspired the creators’ stories about Seong-woong, and he serves as a non-living allegory for issues involving freedom of speech. In the end, unfortunately, Seong-woong follows in the footsteps of many rock legends, and he suffers an untimely death.
Listen to Jason Strother’s full news report on the character who we can only hope can one day come to life.