Making Sense of the Trot (트로트) Trend in Korea


This post covers the Korean trot trend and what it means.

I go over the history and why it’s popular again all of a sudden.

Let’s check it out!

The Meaning of the Trot Trend in Korea

Trot is a music genre of Korean pop.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of it, it’s perfect for company gatherings or hweshik (회식) at noraebang (노래방) because older generations which usually include your boss, love it.

Until a few years ago, trot was considered ‘old fashion’. Young people would sing it ironically at noraebangs.

What is Trot?

Trot is a genre of Korean music mostly popular with older generations.

It’s known for its upbeat tempo, repetitive rhythm and vocal inflections.

Trot has been influenced by different genres of Korean, Japanese, U.S. and European music.

It’s very distinct and one of those things where you know it when you hear it.

You can hear trot at rest stop (휴게소) kiosks (conveniently located by the toilets to sell their mixtapes) whenever you drive or take a bus around Korea. Trot is the unofficial soundtrack of road trips because the beat will get stuck in your head.

Brief History of Trot

Trot was created during the Japanese colonial period.

It had a lot in common with Enka from Japan, but has continued to evolve on its own.

Trot from the mid-1960s to 1980s focused on tragedy or sad lyrics.

With the rise of K-pop music in the 1990s, trot started to fall out of fashion.

To keep up, trot stopped being tragic, and rather turned into exciting music perfect for entertainment venues.

In the 2000s, trot intensified and became more musically colorful with Jang Yoon-jeong (장윤정) and Park Hyun-bin (박현빈).

Even though trot has been around for over 100 years, no one knows how long the current trend will last.

Trot Trend | What Happened?

Since the beginning of 2020, people have been avoiding social life due to the pandemic all over the world.

Koreans developed a coping mechanism for stress and depression from social distancing by having trot competitions on major TV channels. (Some young trot singers from the shows became famous)

Trot is perfect for the current situation since it’s rhythmical and talks about sad reality in a fun/exciting way.

The climax of this trend was during the last Chuseok (추석) 2020.

73-year-old Na Hoon-a performed a live show on KBS for 2 and a half hours. He also released a new song, called “Tes Hyung”, which refers to Socrates in a friendly way to reflect on our lives using philosophy.

Some of the lyrics are:

아! 테스형 세상이 왜 이래 왜 이렇게 힘들어
아! 테스형 소크라테스형 사랑은 또 왜 이래

Ah! Tes Hyung! Why is the world like this? Why is it so hard?
Ah! Tes Hyung! Socrates Hyung! Why is love so hard too?

Learning Korean

Guided conversation is the fastest way to get fluent in Korean. Pimsleur takes you from 0 to conversational in 90 days. You can try the full Pimsleur course free for 7-days here.  

Did we miss anything?

Trot has been around for 100 years and will probably be around for 100 more.

Now we want to hear from you.

Let us know your favorite trot singer in the comments!

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article that provide us a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only endorse the best language learning tools we use ourselves. Find out more about our code of ethics.

Leave a Comment