Rhyming Techniques and Identity in Korean Hip Hop


  • Jinny Park Indiana University




rhymes, flow, Korean rap, rhythm and meter, identity


This article examines the development of Korean rhyming techniques by musically analysing phonetic and grammatical structure in Korean rap. Due to major differences between Korean and English, Korean MCs had to redefine what constitutes “rhyme” in Korean rap, and the conflicting definitions of what it means to rhyme in Korean reflect diverse identities in the Korean hip hop community. Through my musical analyses, I present five types of Korean rhyming techniques: flexible word order, artificial stress accents or artificial pitch accents, rhythmic motives, multisyllabic internal rhymes and translingual rhymes. I close the article by suggesting that there is an inevitable hybridity in Korean hip hop and socioeconomic class struggles that persists in Korea.

Author Biography

  • Jinny Park, Indiana University

    Jinny Park is a PhD candidate in Music Theory at Indiana University. She received a bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance at Florida State University. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to global popular music, bringing methodologies from linguistics, cultural studies, Informatics and ethnomusicology into musical analysis.


Adams, Kyle. 2009. "On the Metrical Techniques of Flow in Rap Music". Music Theory Online 15/5. https://doi.org/10.30535/mto.15.5.1

Bulhandang Crew. 2012. Spotlight: Bulhandang Crew Interview by HiphopLE. Translated by Jinny Park. http://hiphople.com/interview/292560

Byon, Andrew Sangpil. 2009. Basic Korean: A Grammar and Workbook. London: Routledge.

Cha, Woojin and MC Meta. 2016. "Hanguk-jeok hipab-ui eoneo-wa unyul" ["Rap Meets Regional Dialects"]. Produced by Inmun-yesul-konseoteu Today [Humanities Art Concert Today]. YouTube video, 14 December. https://youtu.be/1Cnb3TZTwRI (accessed 15 September 2019).

Hare, Sarah and Andrea Baker. 2017. "Keepin' It Real: Authenticity, Commercialization, and the Media in Korean Hip Hop". SAGE Open 7/2. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017710294

Jeon, Soyeon. 2012. "Saturi-ui nunmul: MC Meta-ga raeb-euro allyeojuneun uri naranmalssami gyeongsangdo saturi" ["Tears of Dialect: The Story of Korean Language, Kyungsangdo Dialect, Told as a Rap by MC Meta"]. YouTube video, 12 March. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvxIkoiDLRo&feature=youtu.be (accessed 11 September 2019).

Kim, Bong-Hyeon [Gim, Bonghyeon]. 2017a. Hangukipap ebollusyeon: Dyuseueseo Dokikkaji [Hanguk Hip Hop Evolution: Since 1989, from Deux to Dok2]. Paju: Wilbuk.

-- 2017b. Millieon dalleo hiphabui tansaeng [The Birth of Million Dollar Hip Hop]. Paju: Gimyeongsa.

-- 2018. "Hangugeo raimui gibon teureul choechoro jesihada: Hanguhiphabui gyeoljeongjeok noraedeul, 5. Dyuseu (DEUX) ui 'Go! Go! Go!'" ["Establishing Basic Structure to Korean Rhymes: Essential Songs in the History of Korean Hip Hop, 5. Deux, 'Go! Go! Go!'"]. Daehanminguk jeongchaek beuriping: Munhwacheyukgwangwangbu [Korean Policy Briefing: Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism], 30 November 2018. http://www.korea.kr/news/cultureColumnView.do?newsId=148855855&pageIndex=7

-- 2019a. "Hangukhiphabui siljiljeok sijakeul allida: Hangukhiphabui gyeoljeongjeok noraedeul, 9. Deureongkeun Taigeo [Drunken Tiger] 'Neohuiga hiphabeul aneunya'" ["Introducing the Beginning of Real Korean Hip Hop: Essential Songs in the History of Korean Hip Hop, 9. Drunken Tiger, 'Do You Know Hip Hop'"]. Daehanminguk jeongchaek beuriping: Munhwacheyukgwangwangbu [Korean Policy Briefing: Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism], 25 January 2019. http://www.korea.kr/news/cultureColumnView.do?newsId=148857906

-- 2019b. "Raepgwa sireul dongsi-e wanseonghada" ["Achieving Perfection in Rap and Poetry"]. Daehanminguk jeongchaek beuriping: Munhwacheyukgwangwangbu [Korean Policy Briefing: Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism], 22 March 2019. http://www.korea.kr/news/cultureColumnView.do?newsId=148859375&pageIndex=1

Kim, Kyung Hyun. 2019a. "Becoming-Black: Exploring Korean Hip Hop in the Age of Hallyu". Situations 12/1: 23-46.

-- 2019b. "'Jeongnyeong'-gwa 'jeonhyeo'-ui cha-i: U Wonjae [Woo Won-Jae] eui wa Binchen-ui reul tonghae ilgneun Hanguk-ui hiphapseong" ["The Difference between 'Really' and 'Not at All': Korean Hip Hopness Read through Woo Won-Jae's 'Sicha' and Binchen's 'Jeonhyeo'"]. Munhwagwahak [Anthropocene] 97: 288-306.

Kim, Yongdae, Bong-Hyeon Kim, Chinyoung Kim, Ho-Jun Yoon, Il-dong Cho and Ji-ho Choi. 2008. Hanguk hiphap: yeoljeongui baljachwi [Korean Hip Hop: The Footsteps of Passion]. Seoul: Hanul.

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. 2011. "Globalization of African American Vernacular English in Popular Culture: Blinglish in Korean Hip Hop". English World-Wide 32/1: 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.32.1.01lee

Lee, Jerry Won and Chung Jae Lee. 2019. "Show Me the Monolingualism: Korean Hip Hop and the Discourse of Difference". Conference presentation, 17 October 2019, University of California, Irvine.

Manabe, Noriko. 2006. "Globalization and Japanese Creativity: Adaptations of Japanese Language to Rap". Ethnomusicology 50/1: 1-36.

Orejuela, Fernando. 2015. Rap and Hip Hop Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Park, Jonghyun. 2016. "Rap as Korean Rhyme: Local Enregisterment of the Foreign". Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26/3: 278-93. https://doi.org/10.1111/jola.12135

Park, Taewon. 1936. Bangnangjang Juin [The Owner of Bangnanjang]. In 20 Segi hanguk sosel-06 [20th Century Korean Novels]. Paju, South Korea: Changbi Publishers.

P-TYPE. 2013. "P-TYPEi jikjeop seolmyeonghaneun gak-un noteu gonggae" ["P-TYPE Explains Rhyme Theory in His Rhyme Note Book"]. Naver Music (blog). https://music.naver.com/promotion/specialContent.nhn?articleId=4102

Song, Myoung-sun. 2019. Hanguk Hip Hop: Global Rap in South Korea. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15697-8

Team Behold. 2018. "Raep reseun dakyumenteori-Rap Lesson in Seoul" ["Rap Lesson Documentary-Rap Lesson in Seoul"]. YouTube video, 11 April. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRFBX_JPObo&list=PLhmKRkY889pikLhpn-FM14QDp7VoK6avW (accessed 1 September 2019).

UMC/UW. 2011. "UMC/UW, rakhiphapgwa-ui inteobyu - 3pyeon" [UMC/UW, Interview by R.O.K. Hip Hop - Part 3]. Interview by R.O.K. Hip Hop. YouTube, 27 July 2011. https://youtu.be/2B6cilg_E4c (no longer available).

UNESCO. 2008. "Pansori Epic Chant". Intangible Cultural Heritage (listing). https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/pansori-epic-chant-00070

Wang, Xuan. 2012. "'I Am Not a Qualified Dialect Rapper': Constructing Hip Hop Authentic­ity in China". Sociolinguistic Studies 6/2: 333-72. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.v6i2.333



How to Cite

Park, J. (2021). Rhyming Techniques and Identity in Korean Hip Hop. Journal of World Popular Music, 7(2), 145–167. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.42671