KOREAN ROCK: The Ju Ju Club (1996~2000) (2)

Korea, 1996 and the Ju Ju Club 1996 ❷
   

 [MV] The Ju Ju Club: I am Me (1996)
   

In 1996, The Ju Ju Club (or Juju Club) released their debut album, 16/20, and it was an instant million seller with two mega hits - “16/20” and the follow-up, “I am Me” or "I'm Me" (나는 , Nanun Na).  The song’s success was even greater than the previous song. The song starts with the chorus, “Ddae, ddae, ddae, ddae…,” by Ju Dain herself; actually, she did the entire chorus as well in all their songs. The word ddae is homonymous with ddae which means “dead skin” in Korean, so the song was nicknamed mogyoktangsong (목욕탕송, Public Bathhouse Song)1 or ddaemirisong (때밀이송,  Rubbing-off-the-Dead-Skin Song).2   Back then, young people loved to sing this song in noraebang (노래방,  which literally means “song room”),3 mimicking the motions of rubbing off the dead skin while singing along the chorus, “Ddae, ddae, ddae, ddae….”  And I still start out my noraebang with this song – most of the time – when me and my friends have a noraebang night in Hannah’s (one of my dear friends) basement. 

The song, Nanun na (I am Me), tackled the beliefs about female premarital virginity that had been portrayed, either overtly or tacitly, as ideal in Korea until the end of the 20thcentury.  Those beliefs are labeled as sungyeol ideologi (순결 이데올로기, which literally means “(female) virginity ideology”).  The music video of the song starts with a girl holding a stuffed animal in the hand and ends with a woman holding a baby on the chest.  It’s not that hard to understand that they are the same person and the song is her coming-of-age story, a story about growing up female in Korea.  Its lyrics can be roughly translated as follows:  “Why do many people forget all about their past lovers?  I guess there must have been good memories (of their past relationships), but why are they trying to hide their past?  I have always disclosed my past relationships.  Some (of my then-boyfriends) hated it and left me but even so, the good memories of them still remain… all the time.  Ah~ I can tell anyone my experiences.  I love all the guys I once loved… forever.”


1.  A little curious about Korean bath culture?  Since you don’t know when, Koreans have been obsessed about keeping their body clean.  Ancient Koreans took a bath in streams, rivers, or lakes when it was warm outside; in winter, they used the kitchen or barn area to keep their body clean.  The nobles had their own private bath called jeongbang (정방, which translates to “cleansing room”). 
     The first Korean public bathhouse was built in Pyeongyang (the capital city of North Korea today) in 1924. Nowadays, a public bathhouse has evolved into a public spa, or jjimjilbang(찜질방) .  Although modern Koreans take a daily shower at home, they still go to the public bathhouse or spa at least 4 times a month to get entirely, thoroughly exfoliated.

A scene from Korean drama, nae ireumun gim samsun
(My name is Kim Samsun), shot in the jjimjilbang

2.  Modern Korean people exfoliate their dead skin, ddae, with a red-turned-green or yellow square pad.  This pad is called itaeri taol, which literally means “Italy towel,” or ddae sugeon, “dead skin towel.”  The pad’s name has to do with the machine made in Italy that is used to produce the fabric.  (Ancient) Koreans had used a stone wrapped in a towel to rub off their dead skin until the pad was invented in 1964.  The pad comes in glove shape as well.

Korean bath pads

3.  Noraebang is a Korean pastime evolved from Japanese karaoke.  Unlike karaoke, you sing in a private soundproof room, as indicated in its meaning, with a small group of friends.


It's been known that the song was such a smash hit that a Taiwanese female singer, Tarcy Su (蘇慧倫), remade it into her own, which was called, “The Duck” (鴨子).  The song title might have been inspired by Ju Dain’s intro chorus that sounds like a duck?  This remake was believed to have provided the band the opportunity to make their name big throughout Asia even before the N.R.G or H.O.T.


 [MV] Tarcy Su: The Duck (1996)


But now, I have to let you know that there’s something weird about this song.  First, watch the video below.


[MV] DJ Jerry: Fast out of the Way (1996)

The above song was sung by a Taiwanese rapper/singer Jerry Lo (羅百吉, aka DJ Jerry) and titled “Fast out of the Way” (快閃開).  It has a striking resemblance to “I am Me,” and what is worse is that the former was released about three months earlier than the latter.  The chronological order of the release dates of these three songs is as follows:


Artist
Album
Song
Release Date
1
Jerry Lo
Friday Night
Fast out of the Way
July 11, 1996
2
The Ju Ju Club
16/20
I am Me
Oct. 1, 1996
3
Tarcy Su
The Duck
The Duck
Dec. 1, 1996


Does it mean the Ju Ju Club plagiarized Jerry Lo’s song?  I don’t know.  For I know all the three albums were released by the same Taiwanese label, the Rock Records, just two or three months apart in the same year of 1996. Tarcy Su released her album, the Duck, on December 1, 1996, when the song “I am Me” by the Ju Ju Club was just about to make it big in Korea; accordingly, it’s just too strange to just simply believe that Su remade the Ju Ju Club’s original number because it was an immense hit in Korea. Yet, while her song was credited to the band (written & arranged by the Ju Ju Club), Jerry Lo’s song was credited to himself (written & arranged by 羅百吉).  How come the Rock Records didn’t know about this when all three songs were released by the company itself?  How come the Taiwan’s biggest major label made Su, who was signed to its label at that time, remake a plagiarized - if it really was - song?  Given that, my best guess is the label recycled one single song written by the Ju Ju Club, or Jerry Lo, or a third person inside the circle.  One thing I know for sure is that only the insiders know what the truth is.

Even though I still think “I am Me” is the best of the three and also the band’s greatest song ever, I’m also still feeling iffy about whether or not it is a plagiarized song because at least a half of their songs on the debut album were plagued with plagiarism accusations.  Except for 16/20, gonjubyeong (공주병, which literally means “Princess Disease”),1and/or nanun na (“I am Me”), plus two more, the rest five songs were accused of having plagiarized Blondie, the Cardigans, Frente!, Buck-Tick, and INXS, and eventually in 1997, it was ruled that ijen anya (이젠 아냐 , “Not any more now”) and doni deuni (돈이 드니, “Does it cost money?”) had respectively plagiarized Blondies’ “Denis, Denis” and Frente!’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” The same year, the two songs were banned from radio and television.

At first listen, I thought each and every song on the band's first album was destined to become masterpieces.  When Jaurim debuted with a single, “Hey, Hey, Hey,” the next year (1997), I was undoubtedly sure the Ju Ju Club would outlive Jaurim because I just loved Ju Dain’s voice and the band’s feisty, gutsy, straight-talking lyrics.  So, can you imagine how heartbroken I was when the skeleton came out of the closet?  Alas for you, poor Ju Dain!  Such a wasted talent!  But on second thought, it's no wonder since, unlike Kim Yoonah of Jaurim, her voice was the only weapon Ju had in her arsenal. Having no songwriting talent as Kim had (and still has), she had to rely solely on the Ju brothers who turned out to be copycats.  (One thing noteworthy is that the Ju Ju Band had brought in the legendary Korean bassist Lee Tae Yoon (이태윤) as a session bassist to record their first, second, and third albums.  Lee had added resounding depth, flow, texture, and richness to every track on those all three albums.)


1.  Gongjubyeong is another key word that portrays the trends of the year 1996.  The word’s literal meaning is “Princess Disease” and its best translation would be “Diva or Prima Donna Syndrome,” although the Korean version has a cute implication.  The label is given to a self-delusional single girl and has a single male version (Wangjabyeong (왕자병), “Prince Disease”) a married woman version (Wangbibyeong (왕비병), “Queen Disease”), and a married man version (Hwangjebyeong (황제병), “Emperor Disease”).   This social, cultural jargon is so commonly used in Korea that there’s even a joke about gongjubyeong:
        
How can you determine if you are stricken with “Princess Disease?”

   Symptom 1:  You are always feeling sorry for all other girls in the world
                → Because you think you are too pretty.
   Symptom 2:  Whenever you get into the forest, you feel like sleeping
                → Because you’re the Sleeping Beauty.
   Symptom 3:  When you go to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, it feels like home
               → Because it really is your home.
   Symptom 4:  You never eat apples
               → Because they might have been poisoned.
   Symptom 5:  When you see a short man, you always ask him where the 
               other six men are → Because you are the Snow White.
   Symptom 6:  Whenever you miss your dad, you take a Korean 10,000-won bill
               from your wallet to see the person featured on it
               → because you’re a daughter of King Sejong the Great.

Korean 10,000-won bill
(8.75 US dollars as of Jan. 17, 2012)

 Click HERE to listen to the sample of the song  by the Ju Ju Club.