MV of the Month: IU and Seo Taiji, ‘Sogyeokdong’

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

The Fall season always brings out a mixture of introspection and dark concepts in Kpop, and this year is no different. Hidden among the gloomy singles, and mixed in with the ghoulish Halloween-inspired hits, is IU and Seo Taiji’s “Sogyeokdong.” For concept, breadth, beauty, and attention to detail, this is hands-down our Music Video of the Month for October.

The Concept

At it’s most surface-level, “Sogyeokdong” is a love story. But this description is the very small tip of an iceberg that is massive beneath the water level. IU and Seo Taiji each released a self-starring version of the music video, but these are actually partner videos. They can only be understood together, as a matched pair. They each tell the same story, but from a different perspective. The joy is in the realization that they elucidate one another. Like 3D glasses in which each lens uses a different polarizing filter, the product when you witness these two videos side by side is truly an alternate perspective. As a concept for a partnership, this is truly outstanding. “Sogyeokdong” goes far beyond simply bringing two stars together.

The Song

“Sogyeokdong,” written and produced by Seo Taiji, vocals by IU, is a mesmerizing synth pop song. It is perfectly balanced and understated, fitting the theme of the video well. The way in which Seo Taiji incorporates electronic sounds into a heart-warming song may surprise some listeners of electronica. It’s something that Kpop needs a whole lot more of.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

The Video

It’s hard to overstate the level of attention that went into making this video. Though much of the scenes take place in the early 1980’s, every little detail is looked into. From the make and model of the cars, to the lighting on the streets, to the transistor radio and the paper and printing. These scenes also employ vignetting and cropping, giving us a box frame with a slightly hazy picture, consistent with the period. Everything is purposefully crafted, leaving no mistakes of perspective or time. The production value is astounding, and other music videos pale in comparison.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

The Story

There has been much confusion and conjecture over the story in this video. But it is not so much confusing as it is understated. IU and Seo Taiji are not going to hang a sign for us that points us in the right direction. These are two musicians that have become increasingly concerned with the representation of their music as art.

Again, at it’s most basic, this is a love story. A young boy and girl fall for each other in the way that only the young can: without words or reason. But this is also a story set in the turbulent time of the early 1980’s, when Korea was still struggling to overcome military-coup dictatorships and move to a more equal democracy. Even here, IU and Seo Taiji remind us, love can flourish.

The boy, after attempting to go to work, leaves quickly when he discovers no one there. The assumption here is that the labor party is on strike. The girl decides to follow the boy. She trips, skinning her knee, while trying to ensure she gets into the same cab. The young pair dance and share a first kiss, even while listening to troubling news on a portable radio.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

The next day, the girl leaves a note wrapped inside a crane for the boy. The message inside asks him to meet her when the lights go out. That night, the sirens wail across the city, a sign used by the oppressive regime that all civilians must extinguish their lights. It was both a tactic of fear and control. The boy, however, still goes out into the night, intent on finding his love. When he gets to her house, he finds it has been trashed.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

From the girl’s perspective, we have seen the police storming up the steps in her neighborhood, just before the sirens. In the Director’s Cut, we even see her chasing after these shadowy figures. We see the officers struggling with her family, forcing them out of their home.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

The video is edited heavily, giving impressions rather than answers. Though we don’t see it, there is a suggestion that the girl and her family have been hung. The swinging shadow that holds the boy’s fearful attention above his line of sight, tells us what we need to know.

IU and Seo Taiji - "Sogyeokdong"

At the very end of the video, either version ends with shots of IU and Seo Taiji paying their respects to the past generation. IU leaves a windmill-toy like a flower on a grave. Seo Taiji finds a crane with another message inside. These are both metaphors, maybe, one receiving a message from the past, and one reaching out.


  1. The story behind this great song:


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