Yoon Do Hyun (윤도현) of band YB isn’t a typical middle-aged Korean rock singer.
Despite his pierced ears, bright tattoos, and skateboarding hobby, perhaps what stands out most is his illustrious career.
As the leader and voice behind the rock band YB and as a solo artist, Yoon Do Hyun has remained very active on stage and on Korean TV. And we unpack that here.
In this post, we go over the highlights of Yoon Do Hyun’s career that is a testament to his continuing discipline and hustle as the face of Korean rock music.
Recognized by Korea’s Legendary Singer-Songwriter
The living legend of Korean music, Kim Kwang Seok (김광석) was a 1980-90’s singer-songwriter known for his melancholy yet powerful voice and poetic yet relatable songs. His suicide at just 31 abruptly ended his stardom but it’s an understatement to say that his songs have been beloved by Koreans through the ages.
It was none other than Kim Kwang Seok who, at the height of his popularity, saw Yoon Do Hyun sing and handpicked Yoon to be a guest performer at his concerts. This was even before Yoon had debuted as a singer.
Since Kim’s death, Yoon has continued to commemorate the singer-songwriter. Yoon has performed at Kim’s death anniversary concerts, appeared on MBC’s 2013 documentary “I still sing Kim Kwang Seok” (나는 지금 김광석을 부른다), and spoke fondly about Kim in TV shows.
National Cheer of the 2002 World Cup
After Yoon Do Hyun formed his band, YB jumped into the national spotlight with the 2002 FIFA World Cup. This was the first of its kind to be held in Asia and was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan.
Although the 2002 World Cup was rife with controversies, it was an event in Korea where it seemed the entire country was united in support of the national team as they made their way to the semi-finals. According to the below clip by MBC, one of Korea’s main public broadcasting services, 1.2 million people in Seoul and 2 million people nationwide gathered on the streets to cheer the semi-final between Korea and Germany.
People flocked to the streets unanimously in red and they feverishly sang none other than YB’s version of the cheer “Oh philsung Korea (오 필승 코리아).”
Yoon Do Hyun’s powerful rock vocals pierced through crowds and his on-stage charisma led ecstatic audiences to clap in unison to the cheer. YB was undoubtedly thrown into the spotlight and recognition as a result of this song.
Host of “Love Letter” Live Music Show
Just before the 2002 World Cup, Yoon Do Hyun became the host for what was to become one of the most iconic live music shows of the 2000’s.
“Yoon Do Hyun’s Love Letter (윤도현의 러브레터)” was today’s equivalent of “Yoo Hee Yeul’s Sketchbook (유희열의 스케치북)” – with live audiences in a concert-setting and different groups of artists performing each week.
But unlike “Sketchbook”, “Love Letter” was not only pre-Youtube but also pre-Kpop as it exists today. Names that now garner millions of views on Youtube had only freshly debuted or were still new artists when they appeared on Yoon Do Hyun’s show.
It’s where 14-year-old IU performed her debut song in 2008, 19-year-old Lee Seung-Gi was known for his singing more than anything else, and Big Bang still had to introduce themselves on stage because they were less than a year into their debut in 2007.
KBS has started uploading videos from Love Letter on Youtube and some of the performances can be found on this official playlist.
Performances in North Korea
Inter-Korean cultural events are very political and very public in both the North and the South – two countries that are still technically at war. One such event is a joint concert in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that invited Kpop stars from the South to perform.
In 1999, this included Korean idol groups Fin.K.L (핑클) and Sechs Kies (젝스키스). Then, in 2002, the group that represented the latest trend in the South Korean music scene was Yoon Do Hyun’s band YB.
Not only was YB one of the first Kpop artists to perform at the Pyongyang concert, they set the record for the very first rock music performance in North Korea according to a video by BBC Korea (link to video in Korean). The next concert similar to 2002 came only 16 years later in 2018, when YB was invited to perform in North Korea for the second time.
In 2018, YB was joined by singer Baek Ji Young and Kpop group Red Velvet. News articles about the 2018 concert note that the audience reaction to YB’s performances was particularly positive, with Yoon Do Hyun even managing to get the audience to engage with him on one of the songs.
Invitation to Pol’and’Rock Festival
The Pol’and’Rock Festival, formerly Woodstock Festival Poland, is one of top 10 music festivals in the world by audience size. According to data from Statista.com, Pol’and’Rock Festival 2018 had about 750,000 people – just as many as the famous Coachella festival.
Yoon Do Hyun’s band was the first Asian band to be invited to perform at Pol’and’Rock since the first festival in 1995.
True to being a veteran of live performances, Yoon said he told the audience about how the Koreas are split into two countries and got them to call for reunification by shouting “Korea, to be one.”
Starring in Music-Themed Shows
Yoon Do Hyun has actively appeared on Korean TV shows but his involvement in a variety of music-themed ones stands out in particular.
“I am a Singer” (2011)
This live singing competition brought veteran singers to prepare and perform cover songs. Yoon Do Hyun’s band YB was one of the first artists in the show and managed to create rock versions to some unlikely songs.
One of the songs that stand out is YB’s cover of Girls’ Generation’s “Run Devil Run.” YB turned a female Kpop group’s dance song into their own shouting and microphone-cameo rock version.
“Begin Again” (Season 1, 2017)
This Korean show on the other hand, is the exact opposite of an intense competition between artists – it is a collaboration of a small group of artists who would travel to different non-Asian cities to busk on the streets.
Yoon Do Hyun’s cover of U2’s “With or Without You” and his duet with Lee Sora of “Falling Slowly” is proof of how versatile the rock singer is.
Find the songs on Spotify:
“Road to Ithaca” (2018)
On this show, Yoon Do Hyun and Ha Hyun Woo (of rock band Guckkasten) were joined by different artists along their 20-day journey from Turkey to Greece (an island called Ithaca). Each day, they had to upload new song covers on social media and receive their travel allowance based on the number of views.
There are more than a few highlights from this show but two of the top picks are their cover of BTS’s DNA and Guckkasten’s Red Field, joined by FT Island’s Lee Hong Gi.
Cover of "DNA" by BTS
Cover of "Red Field (붉은 밭)" by Guckkasten
Yoon Do Hyun YouTube Playlist
Yoon Do Hyun and YB’s appearances on Korean shows and their performances are wide-ranging and numerous so we’ve curated the highlights for you.
Find our curated playlist of the clips and songs mentioned in this post as well as some additional favourites found in researching for this page.