Hip-hop culture first emerged in Korea during the early ‘90s. As Kim Soo-yong discusses in his comic book Hip-hop, graffiti, which is one of the four elements of hip-hop, also started here in Seoul in the ‘90s. Firstgeneration Korean graffiti artists include Vandal, KOMA, Hudini, Santa and Garu who gathered together in the underground tunnel between Apgujeong-dong and the Han River to spray paint their tags on the walls. Their tags began to appear in places such as Apgujeong tunnel, Hongdae, Shinchon and Itaewon.
Later on, in the early 2000s, street art made an appearance. Street artist JunkHouse says that the difference between street art and graffiti is like that between electronic music and ballads. While the graffiti that started in the United States is about resistance and serves as an axis of hip-hop culture, street art here is more akin to urban art and is closer to contemporary art.
Twenty years have passed since these two types of work were born on the streets of Seoul and is still illegal. There is not enough support for it from the government, coupled with mainstream society’s lack of understanding of it as being a part of popular culture or art. For graffiti and street artists, the streets are their canvases and their galleries, and their talents and works of art are still waiting to be recognized on the streets of Seoul.