Hongdae has always been known as Korea’s leading underground music scene, giving breaks to a host of indie artists. It is known for its wide-ranging genres of music and talent, looking to make names for themselves. Whether through self-booking or through small entertainment companies. Many can expect to hear the pulsing sounds of amps and drums whilst walking the streets of Hongdae late at night, with bands of all ages looking to make their name on the International stage. The area has gained a reputation, producing and promoting some of Korea’s most successful rock bands. 

In today’s article, we will be following the career of one of Hongdae’s most successful bands Crying Nut. Pioneers of the Joseon Punk style, they would help change rock in Korea, introducing the then-popular Western style of rock to Korean music. Alongside No Brain, who would break out shortly after the two would take over the national stage throughout the 90s and 2000s.

Their timing was perfect, matching up around the same of the original K-pop boy group Seo Taiji and Boys, who similarly were incorporating both style and pop music from the West, adding it to their own identity. Both acts inspired a new wave of Korean music and style for generations to come.

Forming in 1993. The band was formed by four high school friends. Originally started performing together privately, they earned their big break performing at the thriving Club Drug. A live club in the centre of the Hongdae club scene during the mid-90s. 

They would continue to gather their feet until 1996. Before officially debuting with their first full album, ‘Our Nation Vol.1.’ A shared album alongside alternative rock band Yellow Kitchen. Together they would create an innovative album, incorporating various genres creating something that no Korean band had done before.

The album itself featured the hit song, ‘Speed Up Losers.’ A fan favourite that later featured as the title song of their debut album two years later, the album would go on to sell over 100,000 copies before winning the MNET Music Video of the Year at the 1998 MNET Music Video Festival, they would also win at the KMTV Korean Music Awards being announced the Indie Artist of the Year, all incredible achievements at the time for a rock band under an indie label.

A year later, the band would add their fifth member Insoo Kim, an accordion and keyboard player added just in time for their second album, ‘Circus Magic Clowns.’ An album that cleverly utilised Insoo Kim’s playing style, with the accordion becoming a staple of many of the band’s future releases.

Speaking to Korea JoongAng Daily in 2020 ahead of their 25th-anniversary, drummer Lee Sang-hyuk would say reflecting on their music. “In the old days, we were full of anger, therefore we sang with that spirit.”

They would keep up this spirit throughout the 2000s, representing Joseon Punk rock Internationally and across Korea. They started in the year by performing at their first-ever Busan International Rock Festival and at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. They have seen great success on the International festival scene, performing at the Trastock Festival, the band’s self-confessed favourite festival performance. And multiple performances at the SXSW South By Southwest festival. A US festival known for its wide range of International talent.

Performing at the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup, the year would be a big one for Crying Nut, after returning from their military enlistment and their previous success with their song ‘Offside Deathblow Offside’ featuring on the Korean and Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup. Their trip to Germany would see them make the most of their time in Europe, heading to the UK and various other Countries before heading to the Seattle Korean Festival. 

This would be followed up. By an even more impressive year where Crying Nut would be nominated for three Korean Music Awards categories. From rock awards for both artist and album of the year. To the grand prize of Musician of the Year. 

They would end the decade performing, and now with their new 6th album ‘Uncomfortable Party.’ They once again took over the festival stages at the Jisan Valley and Fuji Rock Festival as they would begin rocking stages across Asia to start the 2010s, performing at the likes of the 2010 Asian Rock Bus Tour in Korea, Okinawa International Asia Music Festival and both parts of the Seoul and Tokyo Sound Bridge both in Seoul Sangsang Madang and Shibuya Milkyway.

The band released ‘Flaming Nuts’ in 2013. An experimental album, it was full of new sounds and genres. Showing a new side to the members, with many seeing newfound success, having made solo debuts and releases. 

They would once again be placed in the spotlight thanks to the Republic of Korea football team. Creating a new special album ahead of the 2014 South Africa World Cup titled ‘Victory Korean Again.’ Before releasing their second collaborative album, ‘96.’ A throwback album with each artist covering each other’s best hits, topped off by joint song ‘96,’ a tribute song titled after the year that Crying Nut debuted. The two would later cross paths the same year, performing at SXSW South By Southwest. 

Crying Nut released their last album ‘Remodeling’ in 2018 and enjoyed careers individually, releasing solo albums and spending more time with their families. They celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2020 with a compilation album of all their greatest hits.

Outside of the band, each member has seen good success. The most famous is Han Kyung-rok, the Bands bassist, more known as Captain Rock. He has become one of Korea’s most-known rock stars. He has always been open about his time spent in bars and clubs discovering up-and-coming talent and stars. He has become a great spokesman for Korean rock, appearing on variety shows like Great Seoul Invasion last year. He has even become so popular his birthday sees 120 artists perform over three days in one of Hongdae’s biggest festivals, “Kyung-rok jeol.”

As Crying Nut approaches 28 years together, they look stronger than ever after surviving the Covid-19 pandemic. And not being able to perform, the band has made up for the lost time.

Becoming the best-selling Korean indie band of all time. Crying Nut’s legacy in Korean music is set. They have been named on multiple top 100 lists, such as the M.net Korean Legend 100 artist. They would also have two works recognised with ‘Sewage Love song’ placed 54 on the Top 100 Korean Albums of the Decade in 2010, and their debut album would be named on the Masterpiece of Korean Indimusic Top 100.

They have inspired generations performing alongside the likes of No Brain and Jannabi on stage. Crying Nut has seen various artists have covered their songs, most recently on the stand-out K-band variety show Great Seoul Invasion where Captain Rock would feature as an expert judge, Yudabin Band would cover the hit song ‘Isn’t that good?’ In the round titled Respect, their impact has also seen the growth of Joseon Punk, with bands such as Rumkicks carrying on their legacy and releasing songs in their own unique Joseon style.


United Kpop’s Crying Nut recommendations:

1.좋지 아니한가(Isn’t That Good?) 

2. Oh! What a Shiny Night


3. Vicious Song

4. Grasshopper

5. The Poppy

6. Offside Deathblow offside

7. Myeong-dong calling

8. 96 (Featuring. No Brain)

9. Luxembourg

10. Speed Up Losers


About Author

Writer and former radio presenter, into Korean rock and indie bands and all things Korean entertainment.