When hip-hop-obsessed American soldiers showed their Korean counterparts how to land headspins and windmills on US military bases in the 1980s, they didn’t expect breakdancing to eventually explode in the country.
Upon reaching Korea’s shores, it was Korean-American hip-hop promoter John Jay Son, who supplied VHS tapes of practices and competitions to Seoul’s underground dance and club scenes, widely credited with sparking the boom.
Breakdancing entered the Korean mainstream in the 1990s with the mesmeric music videos of K-pop trailblazers Seo Taiji & Boys, a modern phenomenon that seemed at odds with the country’s conservative culture at the time.
The pranks came in what is widely seen as the country’s breakdancing „golden years,” when Korean crews won multiple titles at Battle of the Year, one of the top international b-boy competitions.
As the first generation of K-pop — which similarly included American hip-hop conventions — put South Korea on its way to global dominance, the country’s tourism board began investing millions of dollars in breakdancing competitions, hoping it would lead to similar competition. K-wave.
Baggy jeans, boomboxes and tattoos that once took over pop culture in the United States — breakdances featured at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1985 — experienced a similar lull in Korea in the mid-2010s.
But it never went away — and now there’s a resurgence that will lead Korean b-boys and b-girls to the Olympics next year.
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South Korean breakdancing group Jinjo Crew at the World K-Pop Concert in 2021.
This weekend, breakdancing – or “breaking” as it’s known in official competitions – will debut ahead of its much-anticipated debut at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Summer Games in Paris next year.
Started by Black and Latino youth in the Bronx in the 1970s, breaking is an assortment of dance styles such as „locking,” „popping,” and „abrocking.” Those in the industry don’t want to limit breaking to a genre, such as an art-form or sport, but refer to it as a „culture”.
Rules and judging are still in their infancy in the new age game system. In Hangzhou, two medals will be awarded in the men’s and women’s categories.
Organizers say Asia’s best b-boys and b-girls will battle each other to perform routines and be judged in six categories: performance, musicality, personality, creativity, variety and sophistication.
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Jeon Jae, aka B-girl Fresh Bella, will represent South Korea at the Asian Games.
Although there is no official ranking by the World Dancesport Federation (WDSF) governing body, South Korea has long been one of the best countries in the world.
Kim Heon-Woo, also known as B-Boy Wing, leads Korea’s breaking team in Hangzhou. A veteran of the legendary Jinjo Crew, he is a multiple world champion and Asian Games gold medalist.
The quadrennial event will be the largest delegation in South Korea’s history, and Kim is hoping for a „good result” at the Games. There is added motivation after the country’s convincing success Fellow Asian Games Debutant, Sports.
“There have been ups and downs but we always believed that one day the opportunity would come. We’ve worked hard for it,” Kim told CNN after more than two decades of separation.
2021 saw Breaking return to its glory days with appearances on the popular dance survival TV reality show „Street Woman Fighter” and 2022 on „Street Man Fighter” starring Kim.
“You can see the value of braking as a sport. I think this will be an important start for the future,” said Kim.
„Hip-hop and breaking started in America. Now each country is developing new types of dances that suit their own characteristics. There are still some unfamiliarities with each other, but there is more recognition and interest in our dances.
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South Korea’s Kim Hyeonwoo aka B-Boy Wing at the 2023 WDSF Asian Braking Championship in Hangzhou, China in July.
While Kim has an eye on Paris 2024, the Asian Games are undeniably a milestone for the last batch of first-generation Korean breakers.
„It’s their last dance, basically,” said Seoul-based journalist Kwan Jong-ho, who is making a documentary on Korea’s fractured history.
Kwon, who started breaking in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s, saw it „dominate for about 10 years” before discovering the burgeoning Korean scene during his university gap year.
„Korea won everything you can think of in terms of global titles. There really wasn’t a country that dominated the scene like that at the time. It was crazy to watch. But then, there wasn’t a real 'new generation,'” he said.
„With the Asian Games and the Olympics coming up, it’s like the last recovery of the golden generation,” Guan added, adding that he hoped for a „revival” of the post-Games scene.
„It would be quite a statement to say hey look, we’re still around. We’re still at the top of Asia. It’s kind of past its prime, but these guys are basically striving for one last great glory — not just in Korea, but to inspire generations,” he said.
There is that breakdown Entered the sports industry That can only mean good things, says Chen Bo Chun, aka Bibai Pojin, Asian Games braking chair and head of WDSF’s braking division.
“The world we live in now moves very fast. The outcome may not please everyone involved, but it’s about learning,” says Sen, who has been cracking for 30 years.
„South Korea is very important, along with Japan, and now China too. All these countries have contributed to different eras and unleashed impressive energy. We should be grateful, blessed and appreciative to have what we have now.
“At the Asian Games, we will see all this. The legends, the young stars, the super-athletes, the nobodys, all struggle with it. It is a good example for other Asian countries; Breaking up can equalize and make more people fall in love.
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”