When I first arrived in Korea in 2002, I started searching for a punk scene in a country which I knew nothing about. I was unable to speak the language and unfamiliar with the cities; I had to rely on the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of a punk presence that can be found in almost any city around the world. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to spot the kids who could point me in the right direction; I then found this CD. In those days, We Are The Punx in Korea appeared to me as the Rosetta stone of Korean punk rock.
Released on the Skunk label in 2002, this CD contains thirty tracks, each from a different band, including pretty much every group that was active at that time. The CD itself was to serve two main purposes: first, the profits made off the CD would help the Skunk label rebuild their club, Skunk Hell. This remains today the only exclusively punk club in Korea, hosting shows every weekend and giving bands a place to practice during the week. The second purpose of this album is to introduce the Korean punk scene to wider audiences both here and abroad.
The CD booklet itself is impressive in this respect. It opens with an introduction written in English by an American punk expressing the friendship and unity he found in Korea and then a disclaimer: "We do not want this album to be criticized by the quality of music or any other sphere. We just hope that at least some people can listen to this album and enjoy!" The rest of the color booklet dedicates a page to each of the thirty bands for lyrics, liner notes and photo collages.
The CD manages to cover an extremely wide range of styles: street punk, Oi, skate-punk, ska, hardcore, and psycho-billy to name a few. I have to give props to whoever arranged the order, as it's amazing for a comp this diverse. The songs flow without any part being too loud or too much of one style and for the most part there is no jarring sense of discontinuity from one different artist being slammed up against another. The quality of the recording and musicianship, which remains fairly consistent throughout, is much higher than previous compilations from Korea as well as more inclusive with several labels and many independent bands present. There are a few popular songs included, like RUX's "We Are One Mind" and 99Anger's "I'm Not Afraid," however, most of the tracks appear here for the first time or have only been previously released on demos. For several of the bands this is their only recorded work.
I could mention my favorite songs, artists, or styles as standout tracks. However, the real value of this album is as a fairly comprehensive document of a punk scene at a certain time and place. For anybody even passively interested in Korean punk this is the one CD to have. Cranking the disk on my headphones and pouring over the booklet I received my introduction to the Korean punk scene and almost two and a half years later it's still a comp I come back to. In retrospect, their opening caveat seems excessively timid; I don't think they ever really had to worry about people criticizing them for the quality of their music.
You can stream this whole CD from Bugsmusic