Korean culture bloggers Eat Your Kimchi: “When people think of Korean music they think of K-pop idols, but with more exposure, independent musicians like Neon Bunny can give them a run for their money. ‘Oh My Prince’ is not only our favourite Korean indie song of the year, it’s up there with our favourite Korean songs altogether. She’s awesome!”
Independent electropop star Kim Yu-jin aka Neon Bunny has been shaking up the Korean music scene since she snatched the Best Pop Album trophy from national sweetheart IU at the Korean Music Awards earlier this year. “I was so surprised!” she laughs from her Seoul apartment. “I was glad to be recognised though. The indie scene in Korea is really small, so it’s hard to survive here.”
The 29-year-old’s been repping for Korean bedroom-musicians ever since. On her irresistible 80s-influenced EP Happy Ending, she collaborated with longtime producer Cliff Lin on songs as frothy as a milkshake (one’s called “Bubbles”) but with a sassy, finger-wagging twist. “‘Oh My Prince’ is actually about dissing the prince,” she says of her current single, in which she sings “get the fuck out of my life” in Korean over a magical synth swoosh straight out of “Into the Groove”. You don’t get that from K-pop idols like Girls’ Generation.
Yu-jin’s musical awakening came when she moved to Boston in the early 2000s to study music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She touched down amid the then-thriving eastcoast garage-rock scene, which opened her eyes to underground band culture. “It was pretty different to the music back home,” she admits. Inspired by the DIY approach, she formed an artist collective of her own in Seoul called Doggyrich to put on local gigs and clubnights. But wouldn’t hooking up with a major label ensure international exposure, à la “Gangnam Style”? “We don’t need a record company,” she sneers. “This way we can just do our own thing.”
With her sweetly barbed lyrics and Technicolor wardrobe, Neon Bunny has emerged as the bushy-tailed poster-girl of the emerging K-indie scene, spearheading a new wave of exciting independent artists playing the multimillion-dollar K-pop industry at its own game. One thing though – why the name Neon Bunny? “Because I collect bunnies!” Yu-jin giggles. “You know the Sanrio character My Melody? I love them!” Say annyeong haseyo to the cutest rebel in Korea.
Photography Kim Taekyun