K-Pop isn’t the only hot ticket in Koreatown—how immigrants are attracted to “trotting.”


Eunice Kim, 57, a housewife from Mission Viejo, spent $800 to buy Lim Young Woon’s albums.

Along with other members of the fan club, she spent six hours discussing her favorite singer, her latest appearance on a Korean variety show, and the dolls she buys in South Korea.

Last month, Kim was among thousands of Korean-Americans dressed in navy blue at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood to be wowed by Lim, a superstar in the trot genre of Korean pop music reminiscent of the Japanese colonial era. A Sinatra-esque strumming sensation.

The 31-year-old Lim looks like a typical K-pop star with his boyish features and thick hair pulled back on his forehead. But he performs ballads that appeal to a much larger audience, with nostalgic lyrics about lost love and longing for the homeland.

A poster of Lim Young-woon hangs on the wall of the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles as concertgoers gather before Lim’s February show.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

A group of people wearing blue T-shirts come down a wide staircase.

Fans of one of the most popular trotting artists, Lim Young Woon, will flock to the Dolby Theater to see him in concert in February.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

For many Korean immigrants, trot songs tap into feelings they often suppress as they go about their daily lives in their adopted country. Some cling to stars like Lim, whose Korean name means “Hero,” finding solace not only in the music, but also in the community they build with each other.

In Kim’s living room, the Hero Generation fan club gathers to watch live broadcasts of Lim’s concerts. At home, their group chat shines as they set their alarms every half hour and repeatedly vote for him in award contests.

“We talk about how we should spread the blue wave,” Kim said, referring to the fan club’s official color.

Club member Deborah Park discovered the trot after her husband passed away in November 2019. Times were tough – he retired after 35 years of hard work painting houses and buildings.

The isolation of the pandemic has exacerbated his pain, said Park, 70, who lives in Seal Beach. Her son came from Minnesota to take care of her.

Meanwhile, Pak Lim was called “Mr. Trot” reality show American Idol (also featuring “Miss Trot”). Lim’s warm, expressive voice echoed through him.

Soon after, he joined the Southern California Fan Club.

“I want to live long for Yoon Woon,” Park said. “I’m busy. I am happy and I don’t feel pain.

Lim sings in styles including folk and hip-hop, far from the only millennial or Gen Z trotting star.

Young singers mix covers and originals like Young Tak’s “MMM” (Like a Gentleman) and Song Gain’s “Moon of Seoul,” but most of them weren’t born in trot’s last great heyday. 1970s and 80s.

Even BTS member Jin joined the trend in 2021 with the song “Super Tuna”.

The trot song, which takes its name from the foxtrot dance step, is characterized by its distinct vibrato and kkeokk-ki, in which the note fluctuates between the surrounding tones and is embellished, says Son Min-chung, a professor of ethnomusicology at Korea National University of Education, who has studied the genre for decades.

For a nation that was colonized by the Japanese in the early 20th century, fought a tragic civil war, and was divided, trot is the musical genre that “captured the most grief and sorrow of Koreans.” collective memory,” said his son.

“On a Train Heading South in the Rain / Outside the Windows” Kim Soo Hee sings on “Train Heading South” from 1987 and is one of the most popular trotting songs. “It’s raining / My tears and my first love are gone / … Even if we can’t meet / Don’t forget me.”

With the rise of rock and folk music and then K-pop, the trot fell out of favor.

Then came “American Idol”-type audition programs, which catapulted some singers like Lim to K-pop-style fame.

According to Son, fans young and old are investing in singers’ stories, using apps like KakaoTalk to promote their favorite artists on audition programs.

The two unofficial Southern California chapters of Hero Generation in LA and Orange counties have about 50 regulars combined, but the number of trotting enthusiasts is much larger.

About 30 retirees jumped and ran at the Koreatown Senior and Community Center.

A small group of people make gestures with their hands while dancing.

In late January, about 30 retirees jumped and ran at the Koreatown Senior and Community Center.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

“Don’t Run / You Might Be Hungry / The Path Of Heartbreaking Trouble,” Jin Song sang “Bo-rit-go-ge”. “When you filled your empty stomach with a bucket of water / How did you live?”

A glimpse of two feet in stunning black ballet flats

The trot gets its name from the steps of the foxtrot dance.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Choi Suk Ja, 75, flexed her hips and pointed her fingers. He loves American pop music, but he said that he could not leave his homeland. Trott’s sad, nostalgic lyrics reflect his feelings well, but there’s joy in the songs and their beats, Choi said.

“Even if you don’t know the choreography, you can dance,” said Choi, who came to the United States about 30 years ago and ran a liquor store in Riverside there before retiring. about ten years. “The older I get, the more nostalgic I become… Although I live in the United States, my heart is in Korea.”

As Lim’s Feb. 11 and 12 shows approach, fans are flocking to Koreatown’s K-Pop Music City. Blue glow sticks and albums filled with photos of Lim filled much of the store, such as “Mr. Trot performances flashed on the monitors.

“Oh, it’s Young Woon,” Lim’s poster prompted one fan to exclaim.

“Oh, it’s Hero,” another fan shouted.

Manager Sophia Im, 53, warned excited fans to be careful not to accidentally bump into each other and damage merchandise. He had never seen so many Korean immigrants in a store before. Some fans debated Lim for hours.

“This store has become a meeting place,” Im said.

At Lim’s Feb. 11 show, which sold out in minutes, fans from Seoul, New York, Sweden and beyond waved blue glow sticks and signs — “Like Starlight My HERO,” we read.

Some shirts have pins with fan club nicknames like “Dewdrop” and “Honey Voice”. They greeted each other with Lim’s hand gesture, raising their hands at a 90-degree angle with their thumbs up. Geonhaeng – “Be healthy and happy.”

“My heart is pounding,” said Soyeon Kim, a 54-year-old housewife from New Jersey. “This is the first time I’ve ever been crazy about someone.”

Before launching into the folk ballad “Love Letter,” Lim thanked the thousands of fans who filled the theater. He wants to visit Los Angeles more often, he said.

“The bright moments of the past are things we cannot go back to,” Lim said. “But I, your son, your grandson, your friend, yours oppa (brother) Young Woon – sings about them.

Eunice Kim, who was there with her husband, returns to Lim’s second show the next evening with four friends.

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