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S. Korea's New Generation Embraces Rap and Reggae

RAP and reggae are fast taking hold of South Korea's young. Groups like Seo Taeji and Boys have become instant celebrities to the shinsaedae, or ``new generation.''

``Our fans love our music because it's different and new, like us,'' says Seo, the 21-year-old lead singer of the hottest band in South Korea. He describes his music as a mix of rap, reggae, heavy metal, and Korean pop and traditional music.

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Newspapers are filled with stories about the shinsaedae, those born after 1970, whose values and customs alarm their elders. The youths cut holes in new jeans, prefer pizza to rice, and don't think the old are necessarily wise.

The Boys' most popular song, ``Hayega (Change),'' includes lyrics that would hardly raise an eyebrow in the West, but are seen in Korea as controversial because they suggest a lack of loyalty and respect: ``My heart shakes every time I see you/ I threw myself at you.../ I will forget you.''

The Boys have sold 5 million records. Their success has inspired copycat groups and the explosion of youth-centered TV variety shows. Seo Taeji and his two singers were banned from television after they showed up to promote their second album in dreadlocks, ripped jeans, and earrings. In order to appear, they had to cut their hair and alter their looks - an accommodation they say they won't make again. More recently, thousands of parents telephoned TV networks to protest when a bare-chested male singer wearing an open leather jacket appeared in one show.

Experts say the generation gap is a natural byproduct of Korea's swift industrialization and internationalization. More than half of the country's 44 million people are under age 30.

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