[ENTERTAINMENT]The Return of Tai-ji, and His Latest Exit

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[ENTERTAINMENT]The Return of Tai-ji, and His Latest Exit

Due to his huge influence over the domestic entertainment scene, Seo Tai-ji is considered to be the Korean counterpart of Michael Jackson or Madonna. It is almost impossible to examine Korean youth culture, not to mention the entertainment industry, without coming across his name. The 29-year-old musician even takes up considerable space in a domestic encyclopedia.

This icon of Korean popular culture is scheduled to release a new album on Tuesday, titled "Seo Tai-ji Band Live 2000/2001, Tai-ji-eui Hwa." The news that Seo Tai-ji is releasing a new album has been the talk in popular music circles ever since it was leaked to the local media.

Mr. Seo has a reputation for being particular about the way his music is presented and distributed. On his insistence, everything regarding this album has been kept a secret. Bae Young-ho, from Yedang Entertainment company, which is in charge of distributing the album, said, "Seo Tai-ji would go crazy if somebody spilled the beans about his new release before the planned date." The enigmatic musician left suddenly for the United States last Saturday, without a word about his future plans.

Is he another talented but arrogant musician then? Looking at his musical career, the answer is no. Since his comeback last year, he has been differentiated from other established pop stars. It has been his strategy to keep his distance from the media and the public. He made appearances mainly via the internet or at live concerts dedicated to his devoted fans.

But at the same time, he has not been so artless as to shun all media appearances. He took advantage of media exposure by making rather infrequent television appearances. Regarding his new release, it seems that he is determined to pursue his bold strategy and make himself and his music look mysterious.

But defiant voices are being heard, saying Seo Tai-ji is cleverly manipulating the local music scene to promote his work. Others have even formed anti-Seo Tai-ji groups. Their charge against him may or may not be valid but he seems to be more than someone trying only to get money out of his fans.

Mr. Seo has been a figure in the Korean pop music scene since the late 1980s. He made his debut as a bassist for the band Sinawe in 1989 and, in 1992, became the leader of the group Seo Tai-ji & Boys. He has pursued various musical genres with his bands and as a soloist. In 1992, he became a major force behind hip hop music in Korea with his hit "Nan Al-ayo" ("I Know"). He has shown his talents in a wide range of musical genres such as ballad, jazz, techno and alternative rock. In 1996, he abruptly announced that he had quit his musical career and went to the United States. In 2000, he reappeared with the pimp rock album, music similar to that of the U.S. band, Limp Bizkit.

Nobody knows what Mr. Seo's next move will be, or with what kind of music. One thing people agree on is that he will return some day. Until then, his fans can ease their minds by listening to his latest release. sujiney@joongang.co.kr

by Chun Su-jin

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