Kim Soo-chul who is often referred to by his nick name, "Little
Giant" has been a creative force in the Korean Entertainment
business for over 20 years. A self taught musician, Kim started
his own rock band while still in high school. He achieved his first
commercial success as a founding member of the Korean rock group
'Little Big Man', and then went on to a solo career as a popular
singer and composer. This led him into composing original music
for Korean movies and special events. He is now the most sought
after composer in the Korean movie business.
Over the years, Kim became interested in Korean traditional
music. This interest has turned into his greatest passion. Today,
Kim's stated goal is to introduce the sound of traditional Korean
music to a global audience.
Kim first became interested in music while in junior high school.
During this time period in Korea, there was a tremendous interest
in learning guitar among Korean teenagers that can be summed up
with the popular saying of the day; "If you don't play guitar,
you must be a North Korean spy." Borrowing his brothers old
acoustic guitar, Kim spent 6 months listening to the radio and practicing
by himself, as his father had forbidden his older brother from teaching
him how to play. He then moved on to electric guitar influenced
by American musical legends: Jimmy Hendrix, Deep Purple, CCR, Grand
Funk Railroad, and The James Gang.
Kim recalls practicing up to 10 hours a day, often late into
the night. He would put paper under the guitar strings to deaden
the sound (so his father could not hear) as he sat in his darkened
room learning what would become his lifetime stock and trade.
While still in junior high school, Kim started to compose
his own songs. In high school, he even formed a three man hard rock
group called "Fire Fox". During this time, Kim showed
the first spark of what would later become a passion for experimentation
and innovation in his musical career. At a time when everyone else
was still using cables to connect their instruments to amplifiers;
Kim rigged a wireless guitar using FM radio waves to transmit the
signal from his guitar. (Technical assistance was provided by his
cousin who incidentally now lives in the United States and holds
over one dozen U.S. patents)
Kim was also busy learning all he could about live performances.
He performed in club bands in Seoul and even performed at the "7
Club" in "I-tae-won". (pronounced, E-Tae-Won, this
is a special shopping and entertainment district for foreigners
in Seoul). He also performed for US Military Personnel in camps
near the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). When Kim started attending college
at Kwang-woon University, he formed a new band called "Question".
They played local venues such as the YMCA, but with "Disco
Mania" dominating the local musical scene their hard rock style
was not well received, and the group split up.
- 1982 Awakening
1978 found Kim forming a new band. This band, 'Little Big Man'
would become the platform for Kim's breakthrough song "Seven
Colored Rainbow". The group consisted of: lead vocals and guitar
Kim Soo-chul, on keyboard Kim Keun-sung, bass guitar Jong Won-mo,
and Choi Soo-ill on drums.
During the winter break from college studies, the group spent
the entire time practicing.
Kim recalls, "Our parents did not approve of what we were
doing and did not give us any support. It was a very difficult time,
as we were always cold and hungry. We had only two cases of Ramen
(instant noddle soup) to eat". They alternated their long practice
session between friends' apartments and empty recording studios. "We
would keep playing until our hosts got sick of us and kicked us out",
Kim remembers. During this time the group was able to greatly improve
The payoff for all this hard work came when the group took
the Grand Prize at the Korean University Festival in 1978. The group
released their first album in 1979 featuring the song "Seven
Color Rainbow". Korean rock fans went wild making "Little
Big Man" an instant success! The group received numerous awards
and followed up by releasing a second album in 1981 titled "Little
Big Man II". Both albums were primarily rock and roll centered
but contained elements of other styles including: Jazz, Folk, and
While still in college, Kim's interest in movie music surfaced.
With friends: Kim Jong-won, Song Seung-hwan, and Jin Yu-yong, Kim
put together a 16 mm movie called "The Mask". Kim composed
the music, and the movie was deemed good enough to qualify for admission
to the "Youth Film Festival" in France. It was during the
making of this amateur movie that Kim's interest in Korean traditional
music first surfaced.
- 1986 Watershed
1983 proved to be a very difficult time for Kim Soo-chul. Although
he loved music, and the group "Little Big Man" was still
very popular, the reality of graduation and the conservative nature
of Korean society combined to pull Kim in separate directions.
First, upon graduation the band broke up. One member was
married, another went to study in the United States and a third
joined the army. In addition to the break up of the band, his conservative
father was putting more pressure on him to, in the words of that
great American rocker George Thorogood, "Get a haircut and
get a real job!" (In Korea, as in many other countries, entertainers
are looked down upon as being very low class by "polite society")
So against this backdrop Kim decided to study business at
Kun-kuk University graduate school, but first he also decided he
would make a farewell album. It would be a solo album and would
be his last "fling" with the music business before he
got on with his professional life.
in August of 1983, it was a smashing success. Containing several all
time popular hit songs, the album included: "The One Flower That
Could Not Blossom", "Parting", and "I Will Not
Fall In Love Again", all of which hit the top of the Korean Pop
But, even after this success, his father (while on his death
bed) still begged Kim to give up his musical career, and continue
his education. This created quite a dilemma for Kim. After much soul
searching, Kim came up with a creative way to do both! That is, continue
to persue a musical career and still comply with this father's dying
wish. Kim simply decided that he would make the study of music his
professional career. So while his popular music career was taking
off, he used his private time to study how sound and music affect
peoples lives, and especially he studied Korean traditional music.
Over the next three years, Kim released three Hit Albums, started
composing music for movies and even launched an acting career. While
his first solo album "Little Giant" hit the top of the Korean
pop charts, he was composing music for the movie "Whale Hunting"
and evem played the main character in the movie as well.
Kim received numerous special awards from the music industry including:
"Best Singer Of The Year" (KBS, Korean Broadcasting System)
"Top 10 Singer" (MBC,Moon-hwa Broadcasting System) and domestic
and foreign journalist awards. He also received a special award from
the Korean film community for his acting work in "Whale Hunting"
1984 also saw the release of Kim's second solo album "Little
Giant II". This album was also extremely popular with top songs:
"Young You", "You and Me", and "Why Don't
During 1985, Kim continued his pop music success with the release
of "Little Giant III" which included the hugely popular
"Capricious You". Kim continued his movie music composing
work on the film "Whale Hunting II". He also branched out
into the TV music business with work on KBS's "I'll Give It All".
Finally, he continued his string of popular singing awards for the
third year in a row being selected as one of the "Top 10 Singers"
in Korea. All during this time Kim continued to compose original music
for TV and Movies, while at the same time studying and increasing
his knowledge of traditional Korean music. Kim was experimenting more
and more with the combination of Korean and Western sounds in his
music. He was attempting to integrate more traditional Korean music
into his compositions.
In 1986, Kim released his fourth solo album "Little Giant IV"
which included songs "By Chance", and "Today Too"
. He was also writing music for television dramas, stage productions
and traditional dance music.
This year also marks the first release of a collection of
his movie music simply called "Kim Soo-chul Movie Music I".
So it came as no great surprise to Kim's fans when he was selected
to compose music for the ceremonies associated with the 1986 Asian
Games. As music director, Kim managed all aspects of the "Night
Before Celebration" that the Korean government sponsored for
the participants and guests. The music that he composed for this special
international event was unprecedented. Through the use of Western
rock and roll and Korean traditional music, Kim was able to introduce
this international audience to the unique sound of Korean music while
not straying to far from what most of these foreign guests were familiar
with. Not only did Kim compose, and manage the performance but he
also performed in it. This marked the first performance of his "Guitar
Sanjo" stage act.
- 1989 From Singer to Composer
By 1987, Kim was well established in the Korean entertainment industry.
He released his second movie music album entitled "The Story
of Saint Lee" his third movie music album titled "House
of Two Women" and he was much in demand for his original movie
and television scores as well as his song writing and singing performances.
Kim continued to write popular songs and do commercial work composing
music for numerous television shows and films. He also continued his
study of traditional Korean music. In 1987, he composed music for
a traditional dance competition. Entitled, "The World of Spirits",
the group Kim Kun Hee that performed the dance won the Grand Prize
at the 9th annual Korean Dance Festival.
With the success of "The World of Spirits" Kim decided
it was time to put together an album for the general public, dedicated
strictly to Korean traditional music. When the album was released,
it was a commercial disaster! Shortly after its release his record
company (Seoul Records) pulled the album from distribution claiming
it only sold about 200 copies. Kim was forced to pay for all production
costs and returns. This was a heavy blow financially and emotionally.
However, this setback did not deter Kim from continuing to compose
music for tradtional instruments even though he was now under pressure
from friends, relatives, and especially his record company to "stop
wasting his time" and only work on moneymaking projects. All
of this criticism did not stop him from working toward his goal of
modernizing and popularizing traditional music. Although this was
a tremendous financial burden, Kim decided to continue to create and
produce traditional music with the belief that he would eventually
find an audience for his work.
1988 was a big year for Koreans. South Korea had been selected to
host the Summer Olympics, and the entire country was excited. This
was a very special year for Kim as well. Not only did he release his
sixth solo album entitled, "Celebrating Twelve Years in Music",
his fourth movie music album entitled, "Collection of Theme Songs"
and his fifth movie music album for the movie "Chil-su and Man-su,
but propelled by his successful work on the 1986 Asian Games, he was
selected as music director for the "Night Before" ceremony
for the Seoul Summer Olympics.
Once again combining elements of different genres to create
a musical piece of unique appeal. (Some people have said they can
hear the influence of Pink Floyd) The first movement entitled "The
Leap" combined contemporary percussion and synthesizer along
with Korean instruments: Tae-pyung-so, Ka-ya-geum, Chul-ka-ya-geum,
A-jaeng, and O-go. Kim used Korean percussion as well as chorus to
achieve a feeling of wonderment and anticipation in the audience.
Critically acclaimed this album contributed
significantly toward generating renewed interest in Korean traditional
music by the public in general, as well as sparking interest by many
of the international guests that heard it.
After the public's favorable response to his Olympic Album, Kim decided
to leverage its success and combine it with some of his other traditional
music compositions. This lead to his second album dedicated primarily
to Korean traditional music. Kim's name appears in Chinese script
at the top of the CD and has a picture of two men dressed in traditional
Korean clothing. This CD album was marginally successful and gives
Kim hope that he will someday find an audience for his modernized
1989 was another busy year for Kim Soo-chul. He released his seventh
solo "pop" album, "One Man Band". This was another
first for the Korean music business! Not only does Kim compose all
of the music, write all of the songs but, he literally plays all of
the instruments as well. Other Korean artists had made similar efforts
but had always relied on synthesizer or studio bands to carry some
of the load. The album includes the song "Get With It" which
is immensely popular for its witty and humorous criticism of modern
materialist society. This album was to prove so popular that Kim was
once more pushed into the live performance spotlight. In addition
to his singing performances, Kim goes on tour in Korea with his "Guitar
Sanjo" stage show. (Kim plays electric guitar while being accompanied
by a traditional Korean musical group; he will later perform this
same act in Japan and the United States.)
In 1989 Kim released "The Best of Kim Soo-chul",
and took another chance with the release of his third Korean traditional
music album, entitled "The Road to Hwang Chon". The best
of album is a success, but once again the traditional music album
is a disappointment. His efforts on composing traditional music are
not entirely unrewarded. This year marked yet another first for Kim.
His instrumental composition "The Sound of Invocation" composed
for the 11th Korean Dance Festival won the "Best Music"
award. This was the first time a composer not formally trained in
traditional music ever won a major prize in a Korean traditional arts
- 1993 Looking for The Right Sound
continued live performances started at the end of 89 with the release
of One Man Band. After devoting most of his time to composing music
for movies and television, Kim's fans are ecstatic to see him back
During this time Kim also travels to Japan to perform at the
Osaka Exposition with the Central Classical Korean Music Orchestra
From a business standpoint the sales figures for traditional album
"The Road to Hwang Chon" gave Kim some cause for optimism.
Although sales are not even one-tenth of a typical pop album release;
nevertheless, Kim is encouraged as sales are now showing a definite
upward trend. This same year Kim was commissioned by K.B.S. (Korean
Broadcasting System) to work on the large Korean documentary drama
"History Flows". As a result of the historical content of
the project, Kim was able to easily integrate more use of traditional
instruments into the musical score. This prompts the release of his
fourth traditional music album "History Flows".
In 1991 Kim headed back to the recording studio, this time with a
group of friends. The resulting album "Friends" is the first
collaborative work since his days with the group "Little Big
Man" eight years earlier.
Kim also released another solo vocalist album this year. Entitled
"Little Giant VIII" it includes the hit songs "Where
Do I Go From Here" and "The Road".
Kim continued his live performances playing "Guitar Sanjo"
while composing music for films and television. This is also the year
he received the top music award at the 11th annual Korean Film Critics
Awards Ceremony for this work on the movie "They Are Like Us".
1992 Kim releases his fifth traditional music album entitled
"The Sound For Invocation". Once again sales are a disappointment.
Kim however, was not deterred. Besides, he has his hands full working
on several other projects. He continued his live performances with
his "Guitar Sanjo" stage show, as well as composing original
music for several television and film projects. Amazingly, he also
found the time to get married ( on February 2, 1992 at 2:00 O'clock
in the afternoon he was married to Ms. Oh So-young) and release his
seventh television and film album entitled "TV Drama Music".
The year 1993, is to be a breakthrough year for Kim Soo-chul.
Since 1987 and the release of his first traditional music album, Kim
has been working steadily; honing his skills composing and producing
Korean traditional music. He is constantly searching for just the
right sound to "harmonize" the music styles of Korean and
In 1993 Kim was hired to compose the music for the film "So-pyon-je".
It was to be a film about traditional Korean music and musicians,
and Kim was very excited about doing the score. Even to most Koreans,
the story was somewhat unfamiliar, but something about the movie and
the music, "strikes a cord" with the public. It becomes
one of the biggest box office draws in Korean movie history. Not only
was it commercially successful but it also won widespread critical
acclaim. Riding high on domestic success "So-pyon-je" was
entered into foreign film festivals all over the world including:
The Cann Film Festival in France, The Berlin
Film Festival, and the Singapore Film Festival, where it won !!!Picture
of the Year!!
was elated and set to work creating the first actual Sound Track album
to ever be made in Korea. (Past movie albums were only collections
of songs.) To date, the "So-pyun-je" movie soundtrack has
sold over 1 million copies. (Not bad when you consider that the sale
of 500,000 records in the United States constitutes a gold record,
and the United States has almost 6 times the population of South Korea.)
Not only is the music for "So-pyun-Je" commercially successful,
but it won top honors at the 13th Annual Korean Film Critics Award
Ceremony, as well as top honors at the 1993 MBC (Moon-hwa Broadcasting
Company: moon-hwa means, "culture") awards ceremony.
Kim continues his special event work with original music for
the 1993 Tae jong World Expo. He composes original music for both
the opening parade as well as the opening ceremony. Also during this
year Kim took his Guitar Sanjo Stage Show on the road to perform in
New York. Reflecting his widespread recognition as a gifted composer
and entertainer, Kim is so now being invited to speak as guest lecturer
at varoius institutions of higher learning.
On the business front, by the end of 1993 Kim is not happy with
his long time record company Seoul Records and they part company.
He signs with Sam Sung records and decides to re-release his most
recent albums: "Road to Hwang Chon", "Sound for Invocation"
and the sound track album "So-pyun-je". "So-pyun-je"
is now a huge hit, and the other two albums do far better than their
1994 finds Kim back in the studio working on his 9th solo album
"Men in Blue". It is his first solo album in three years
and demonstrates Kim's great musical versatility. As usual, composing
the music and writting the lyrics, Kim delievers an intimate "unplugged"
performance. The song themes are universal and the style is cool jazz.
As is apparent from the cover, the man has got the Blues. The songs
speak of the trials and uncertainties of middle age, and the eternal
question; what does it all mean.
Through out this time Kim continued to perform and compose
music for television, film and special events. Later in 1994 Kim composes
the score for the movie "Tae Baek Mountains". The movie
is based on actual events just prior to the Korean War. The movie
tells the story of the human suffering of common people brought on
by ideological conflict. The musical score turns out to be one of
Kim's personal favorites. Kim is quoted as saying, "This score
comes the closest to what I visualized when I set out to composed
music for film".
The sound track album "Tae Baek Mountains" released in September
1994 also highlights another of Kim's music innovations. This album
represents the first time Korean traditional music instruments have
been combined with Western orchestral backup. The musical imagery
is stunning and meets with widespread critical acclaim! For his work
on this movie Kim is honored by receiving the "Best Movie Score"
at the 33rd Tae Jong Film Festival and "Best Movie Music"
at the 16th Chyungyong Awards Ceremony. Along with receiving musical
awards Kim is in great demand as an "MC" at special events,
and celebrity judge at musical contests.
Over the years Kim has worked on many television and movie projects
for children. He had often said that he wanted to create an album
that spoke directly to children. So, in 1995 he decides it's time
to put together an album made up of songs just for children. Released
in May of 1995 the album turns out to be a big hit with children,
and adults as well. Including such songs as "Chiki, Chiki, Chaka,
Chaka" the album was praised by parents and critics alike.
Other activites in 1995 include: Composing special event music
for the 1995 Korea Cup (Korean National Soccer Champianships), and
a return to the silver screen with a supporting role in the movie
"My Love". (and yes, he composed the music too)
Internationally, he traveled to Germany representing Korea
as a kind of Musical Ambassidor of good will. Every year the government
of Germany, selects one country in the world that will be the focus
of a special music symposium. In 1995, Korea was the selected country
and Kim was chossen as the person to share the musical heritage of
In June of 1996 Kim releases "Festival" which is
the soundtrack album of the film by the same name. This film tells
the story of a typical Korean family that has been brought together
by the death of their grandmother. The history of the family unfolds
as the characters make the complicated preparations for a traditional
Korean funeral. The participants experience a wide range of emotions
potently expressed by the powerful sound track. As usual, Kim uses
a combination of Western and Korean instruments to help tell this
bitter sweet story of the human condition.
In 1997 Kim releases "Chang" which is the sound track album
for the movie of the same name. The movie was commercially very successful,
(Chang means prostitute in Chinese) and was directed by renowned Korean
director Im Kwon-taek. This movie follows the life of a poor Korean
country girl who applies for what she thinks is a "waitress"
job only to find herself trapped in the unhappy world of a prostitute.
Using both Korean and Western instruments, the music follows the emotional
peaks and valleys of the main character as she tries to escape her
situation. The soundtrack creates in the listener the feeling of great
longing and loss which is the theme of the movie.
Also in 1997 Kim releases "Best of Film Music 1"
which is a collection of soundtrack music that he created for various
Korean movie productions between 1983 and 1997. This album concentrates
on Korean tractional music and makes use of unique
musical instruments of Korean origin. The various tracks range
from the soft and sweet melody of "The Way of Sound" to
the mournful and haunting resonance of "A Millennium Crane".
Most of the pieces have received numerous awards from within the Korean
film and music industries.
In conjunction with "Best of Film 01", Kim released
"Best of Film Music 02" which is a collection of movie soundtracks
written and composed by Kim highlighting his use of Western instruments
in Korean films that he has worked on since 1983. This album includes
award winning tracks from such Korean movies as: Berlin Report",
"Men in Blue", and "Whale Hunting". The track
from the movie "Whale Hunting" is particularly noteworthy.
Not only did Kim write and perform the music, but he also made his
screen acting debut in this movie as the leading man. Additionally,
Kim won the "Fresh Face" award at the Back Sang movie awards
for his performance. Finally, "Whale Hunting" was the most
commercially successful Korean movie of 1983 and spawned several sequels.
Continuing his work on special events, Kim was selected to compose
the music for the opening ceremony of the 1997 Student Winter Olympics.
This is an international event that brings together student athletes
from all over the world.
Lastly, in 1997 Kim releases "The Sound of Invocation II"
which is the second in a planned series of albums dealing with Kim's
feelings about life's journey expressed through his music. This album
takes the listener on a spiritual odyssey through time and space,
experiencing through the music emotions such as: temptation, frustration,
patience and triumph; the things people might feel as they looked
back over the course of their lives. There are quiet thoughtful moments
and boisterous celebrations, all sewn together with a haunting celestial
melody. All of this achieved by Kim's trade mark style of combining
Western and Oriental instruments to create a harmonious blending of
recently, in June of 1998 Kim released "pal man dae jang kyung"
which is another all instrumental album. The album title which roughly
translates to, "80,000 Great Words" is the complete Korean
Buddhist canon. This is the first in a planned series of albums that
are aimed at making this internationally recognized cultural relic
National Treasure Number 32) more accessible to the people of
Korea and the World. This album marks Kim's first attempt to reach
an international audience with his unique sound. By combining traditional
Korean wind, string, and percussion instruments with their Western
orchestral counterparts and adding the modern "high tech"
sound of a synthesizer Kim's music has global appeal. Using his now
trade mark style of combining Oriental and Western music, he has "harmonized"
the two forms and created a brilliant hybrid. This 42 minute long
piece is divided into 4 movements representing historical events surrounding
the creation of the first moveable printing blocks in human history,
and the horrific Mongolian invasion of Korea in the 13th century.
This unique harmonizing of musical styles offers the listener a very
special musical experience.
Kim continues to be active in many arenas. His is currently working
on special event music for the Kong Ju International expo, music for
an upcoming advertising campaign, and he is doing the ground work
for addtional album releases.
more information on what Kim has been up to lately,
check out the "News & Events" section in this homepage.
* A Final Thought *
Throughout his long career Kim's long term personal
goal has remained the same. That is, Kim wants to introduce the
beauty of Korean traditional music to a larger audience. He is very
excited to be able to bring this homepage to his fans, and views
the internet as a wonderfull new tool to help introduce his music
to a global audience.