Author : Jung Hojai, K-pop columnist

In 1994, during my first year of college, a tall friend of mine who lived in Bundang, which was newly constructed city at the time, invited us to his new house. In detail, Bundang is a district located in the city of Seongnam, which is part of the Seoul Capital Area in South Korea. Often referred to as Bundang-gu, it is a well-planned, modern district that has seen significant development over the years. At that time, I was living in a college dormitory in Northern Seoul, very far from there, so I had no idea how to get to his house. I took a bus from old downtown of Seoul to Gangnam, changed buses several times, and after about 2 hours arrived at my destination, Yangji Village. He greeted us with an apologetic face.

Originally born in Seokgwan-dong, north Seoul, he had lived somewhere in Gangnam for a while, but when Bundang New Town was established around 1992, his family decided moved there immediately for the better environment. Despite his shyness and apologies, the house his mother opened for us was surprisingly luxurious. It was the first time I had seen a 3-bathrooms apartment, and the whole house was filled with the comforts of a newly construdtion and antique European-style furnitures.

The structure of the city was also fascinating. Sammul? Hyojachon? Yangji Village? The roundabout streets surrounding the park caught my eye. Anyway, after the three of us drank and returned to his house, the guest room was so clean, and it was quite comfortable with the parents' bedroom at a distance. Although Bundang was far from Seoul, it was incredibly relaxed and pleasant.

Jannabi in Bungdang Central Partk in 2022

Bundang City, born in 1992

Choi Jung-hoon, the lead singer of the band , is a fascinating figure no matter how many times you look at him. It is difficult to tell his nationality and age just from the first impression. Perhaps he has Middle Eastern ancestors? There is something exotic about him, and he seems distant to Korean eyes. Maybe it is because he does not have a sharp nose, but a Roman nose that exudes the Mediterranean feeling of Agrippa. The stylish long hair embraces maturity and classic beauty.

Born in 1992, he graduated from Bundang Elementary School and Seohyun Middle School, which is located next to Bundang Central Park. If you are from this area, it is not just any place; it is a school in a familiar place, to the extent that you can even remember the trash cans on the street. The group  has a distinctive guitar sound, and Kim Dohyung, who plays the guitar, was also born in 1992 and is from the nearby Imae area (Maesong Middle School-Imae High School). In short,  can be described as the sound and musicians born in Bundang that began to develop in 1992.

Even without the comments of the fabous K-music critics such as "Kang Heon" and "Shin Hyunjoon", the musicians are shaped by their "hometown" and "era". In particular, the music listened to and enjoyed the near environments during the emotionally explosive second year of junior high school(16 years old) is almost essential in defining a young artist's identity. This kind of sensibility is generally influenced by every alley in the "village" where one lives, the design of the garbage cans, and the angle at which utility poles and the sunset converge. The expression 'Bundang gave birth to ' is therefore quite apt.

'Exhibition' By Gangnam and Sinchon

In December 1993, Kim Dong-ryul of  revealed his face to the world for the first time at the Campus Song Festival. Since the band "Exhibition" led by Kim Dong-ryul who is the same age as me, I can vividly remember the situation after his debut, and it was indeed a 'shock' that every young person in their late teens and early twenties who loved music could not help but feel. The prominent appearance of the music "Etude of Memory(기억의 습작)" in the movie <Architecture 101, 건축학 개론> is also attributed to this. Although there were more news stories about Seo Taiji in the media at that time, the influence felt on college campuses was overwhelmingly that of Kim Dong-ryul.

The reason why this band sound and music  was so shocking was that it was the first time that Korean music had expressed the complex and subtle sensibilities of Generation X, which means the group of people born in the early 1970s, more deeply than we could imagine. In the late 1970s there was , and in the 1980s there were "Lee Moon-sae" and "Byun Jin-sub", but somehow their music carried a sense of "pitifulness". What was needed in the 1990s was a new wine and fresh wineskins filled with sophistication, modernity, cleanliness and tragic beauty.

Kim Dong-ryul, who majored in architecture at Sinchon district in western Seoul, fulfilled all these needs 100 percent and captured the nostalgic memories in the hearts of the young Korean new generation of that time. I later learned that he played musical instruments in church and grew up in Yeoksam-dong in Gangnam. The  must have been a kind of cultural gift that "urban city of Gangnam," endowed with clean urban planning and modern life, that is, baptized by Western culture, gave to Korean society.

Central Park, Heart of City

In 2019, 2022, and 2023, during the fall season,  held concerts in Bundang Central Park(분당 중앙공원). Although I was not able to attend the concert, the expressions of those who attended were, "It was no less envious than New York's Central Park. Bundang Central Park is the embodiment of Bundang's identity. Those who planned this city in the 1990s deliberately placed a green park in the center of the city, surrounded by apartment complexes. It seems that the architects, tired of the dreary "10,000 won Seoul," finally applied what they had learned from European and American cities over the past 20 years.

In the early days of Bundang and Ilsan, Ilsan Lake Park received more praise than any other park. Its lively fountains of various colors even attracted many fans nationwide. Bundang, on the other hand, with its distinctly green atmosphere, took at least 20-30 years to establish its green identity. By the time the members of , born in 1992, came into the world, Bundang had already become "The Best Place to Live Under Heaven" and Bundang Central Park had reached a level comparable to New York's "Central Park.

Moreover, the focus of Bundang Central Park was the modern music of . Her music is sophisticated, yet as familiar and indigenous as Kim Dong-ryul's generation. You can feel the warm aura of Bundang. It is indigenous by nature, starting with the name Jannabi. The band name Jannabi, which means 'monkey', is derived from the zodiac sign of the monkey. The names of Bundang's Korean villages, such as Yangji Village, Sammul Village, Imae Village, etc., are naturally intertwined. Unlike K-pop idols' names, which are often mixed in English, it is unmistakably Bundang-esque.

Hit Song "For lovers who hesitate..."

I too watched 's debut on an entertainment program, saw Jannabi get involved in various controversies, and came across online posts speculating about Choi Jung Hoon's father. However, I did not pay much attention after that. At the time of <Jannabi's debut in 2014, the popular music market in Korea was exploding, and survival programs and idol culture were taking over. Especially since  came on the scene in 2012, it seemed like they would dominate the ballad music market for at least the next twenty years.

After occasionally listening to music on YouTube while living abroad, I rediscovered  when I happened to listen to their legendary second album, released in 2019, in early 2020. More than just a fresh shock, it felt like the resurrection of the  I had encountered in December 1993. Discovering new music and being shocked in your 40s is not easy, but 's sensibility brought an unprecedented wave of emotion and warmth.

It is not the age for a new romance, and memories of first love have faded into the space-time of twenty years ago. However, 's vocals and mystical harmonies provided a touching experience that transcended the sweetness of Marcel Proust's 'Remembrance of Things Past' and the warm cookie taste of Shunji Iwai's 'Love Letter'. Since then, I have occasionally listened to 's songs, and each time I have felt a chill at the depth and maturity of her emotional sensitivity.

Bundang sensibility

Bundang and Ilsan are Korea's first-generation new cities, and these models have become the models for subsequent new cities that have sprung up like mushrooms. Even now, many cities are replicating Bundang in an expanded form. However, since the completion of a city requires the "baptism of time" and the "affection of residents," it will not be easy to build a new city that surpasses Bundang.

Especially since Bundang Central Park has quietly taken its place at the center of Bundang, and  holds concerts here every fall, it is hard to imagine any other city capturing the essence of Bundang. The residents of Bundang, who more than 30 years ago tediously commuted more than two hours to and from Seoul, have now retired and become grandfathers. Their children and grandchildren are now shaping Bundang's new identity.

 "Jannabi(잔나비)" is a South Korean indie rock band that was formed in 2012, they have been called as "Son of Bundinga"
During 1991, Bundang-gu was under construction


  1. Incheon has "rock music", Bupyeong has "hip-hop", Apgujeong has "SM", Hongdae has "YG", and Bundang has its genre called "Jannabi".
  2. Released their second album in early 2019, and immediately won the "Song of the Year" award at the 17th Korean Music Awards. Korean music critics had a gut feeling. To win the award for this song in the same year. Wow.
  3. About the possibility of building a  music monument in Bundang in about 50 years.

Jung Hojai now staying in SNU Asiacenter as a visiting scholar