Golden Fishery – Kim Tae Won Part 1
Posted May 1, 2011on:
Kim Tae Won is the leader and guitarist for one of Korea’s longest running bands called Boohwal aka “Rebirth.” During the past 20 years KTW endured several personal and professional hardships including an addiction to drugs, a stint at a psychological institution, the sudden death of one of its band members and surviving cancer. Through it all KTW managed to keep the band alive, wrote some of Korea’s best rock ballads and became famous as “the nation’s grandmother.”
While KTW’s songs were famous and Lee Seung Chul (original singer for Boohwal) was famous, the general public had no idea who this guy was. That changed two years ago when he was invited to the sister program for Golden Fishery called Radio Star. I’ve never seen that episode but from what I hear the audience loved his eccentric personality. He began to appear on several variety programs and eventually became known as the nation’s grandmother. Yes grandmother. If you look at him from the back it’s pretty self explanatory. KTW even did a commercial poking fun of his feminine side.
Yet even with his rising fame KTW pointed out the fact that the producers of this show never invited him until he announced his battle with cancer. I love that about KTW. He’s so honest but does it in such a self deprecating manner that its not depressing or offensive but funny.
KTW does a weekly show called “Qualifications of Men” and in one episode, each member of the show did a health check with the results to be revealed in the following week. The main MC of Qualifications of Men along with the producer met KTW after a music program and gave him the bad news. KTW felt like someone had hit him over the head with a hammer yet put on a brave face. In February of 2011, he let the Qualifications of Men cameras follow him through his diagnosis and subsequent surgery and as of the airing of this episode, Kim had been given a clean bill of health.
And in the spirit of rock, three days after his surgery, KTW was back on tour with his band. Interestingly there are a lot of criticisms toward Kim and his band saying Boohwal isn’t rock but ballad. KTW who is also famous for his lyrical almost romantic words replied “we’re not rock. we’re music.”
The guru wants to know why he’s come on the show and KTW says that he’s made so many promises to himself that he doesn’t know how to keep them all. He’s always kept his promises. Back in middle school, he promised he’d never swear and til this day, he hasn’t used a single curse word. Amazing considering my mornings usually start out with “omg I’m going to fucking kill that alarm.”
KTW believes that things like swearing became boring after discovering the guitar. Again he tries to be romantic. He tells the group that the first chord he played was A minor. It was so sad and melancholy that it drew him in. The guru’s sidekick gently plays Am but then calls Kim out saying its the first chord to the Golden Fishery theme song which is everything but sad.
Also in 2009, he promised to quit drinking and to this day he’s never had another drop of alcohol. He doesn’t even dream about it. Again, diametrically opposed to me who dreams of soju and makgulli on a daily basis. The one thing that KTW hasn’t been able to promise himself is to quit smoking. KTW started smoking in his first year of high school and he knows its bad for him but he hasn’t been able to get himself to quit just yet.
After the general introduction a brief biography is laid out for KTW. KTW was born April 12, 1965 as the youngest son of five children. During his teens, he was known as one of the three guitar legends of Korea and in the 80’s he started a band called The End. The band broke up before its debut but it lead to the introduction of KTW to Lee Seung Chul who became the band’s singer and shot them to stardom with the song “Heeyah.” During the third album Lee left the group and Kim Jaegi was recruited as the replacement but he died in a tragic car accident while recording their third album.
Kim Jaegi’s brother Kim Jaehee was asked to sing for the band and the album was one of its most successful selling a million copies. Subsequent singers and songs later the band was reunited with their original singer Lee Seung Chul in 2002, presenting the world with the great “Never Ending Story.” However Lee again left the group and the band fell into another low, that is until KTW appeared on Radio Star which lead to several other TV shows, commercials and gigs.
Going back to KTW’s childhood, he revealed that his grandfather was extremely rich but due to some bad investments his family lost everything. During elementary school, KTW became the school outcast and was not only harrassed by the students but by the teachers, who would hit him mercilessly for minor infractions. He was so scarred that to this day he hates even the smell of the pencils. But because of his experiences, he readily identifies with what society deems are the “outcasts” and “losers” and has given him an interesting perspective on life.
KTW says that the only reason he endured those rough times was because of his father. As the youngest son, he was deeply attached to his father and would wait in anticipation each night for the sound of his father coughing as he entered the house, carrying a small snack for him. Even to this day, that emotional memory lulls him to sleep.
The reason why KTW first learned the guitar was to show off. His middle school class president was not only smart and good looking but also a guitar player. Wanting some attention, KTW criticized the guy’s guitar skills and bragged that he could play songs by Led Zeppelin. Realizing that the students would eventually call his bluff, KTW went home and tried to learn Led Zeppelin’s “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” by ear. Six months later he was hooked and once he touched the electric guitar and he never looked back.
Its a testament to his talent that this self taught guitar player would become a legend in the field. KTW actually tried to take guitar lessons at one point in his life but soon realized he was learning at the faster rate than the teachers were comfortable teaching. He says that all his life he searched for a genius mentor, someone like Doc Brown from Back to the Future leading Michael J. Fox on great adventures. He realized no such person existed. Instead he would have to become the Doc Brown so that another kid wouldn’t feel the disappointment he had felt.
As evidenced above, KTW is insanely passionate about the guitar. He once took his 1965 Fender Stratocaster and sawed off the sides wondering what sound it would make. After ruining three guitars he realized sawing parts off an electric guitar was a bad idea. Yeah, I’d say he’s a guitar equivalent of crazy professor Brown.
Rehashing some history, KTW talks about how he started writing. In 1985, KTW’s band Boohwal entered a competition against Shinawe (a now legendary Korean rock band). Everything from the quality of Shinawe’s instruments to their physical appearance were impeccable and even as a 19 year old KTW knew the only way he’d be going to compete was to become a songwriter.
Speaking of looks, Lee Seung Chul was definitely the face of the group back in the 80’s. The band actually opposed the addition of Lee but KTW fought hard for him because he had a great vibrato. Of course the more famous and successful songs do feature Lee which goes to show KTW definitely has an ear for music. After Lee left the group, KTW fell into addiction which haunted his music and personal life for several years. During that time, he wrote a song for his girlfriend, now wife called Reminiscence III found on Boohwal’s second album. That song and album bombed on the charts yet when Lee Seung Chul remade the song for his solo and called it “The Last Concert” it became an instant hit. This made KTW even more miserable as if it affirmed for him his failure as a musician and he considered breaking up the band.
Eventually KTW met Kim Jaegi. KTW he had never seen someone with the vocal abilities of Kim Jaegi and the only person who compared was Lee Sora. So from the depths of KTW’s depression and addiction, he found a glimpse of hope in Kim and began to write and compose for Boohwal’s third album While the song “사랑할수록” aka “As I Love” sold a million records, it was recorded in one session as Kim unfortunately died in a tragic car accident shortly afterwards.
Several years later, Lee Seung Chul approached KTW to do a reunion concert. As part of their contract, KTW was commissioned to write a new song for the group. However months passed and KTW continued to fight with writers block. Most people are under the impression that his wife and children left him during this time and moved to Canada. However, KTW tells the guru that this isn’t true.
As several news outlets reported after this show, KTW’s 11 year old son is autistic. There is a huge stigma attached to mental and emotional problems in Korea and KTW’s wife left the country not because of her husband or because she was ashamed of her son but because the country and its people had emotionally scarred her and their child.
Its heartbreaking as KTW tells the guru and the entire country this story. While he says that their family is extremely happy, his wife and children continue to live outside of Korea because of the hurt they feel from people. He knows that there are so many children who are facing the same struggles as his son and he hopes that by revealing this secret, he can perhaps change people’s perceptions of autism.
KTW’s life story and the story behind Boohwal was recently portrayed in a mini drama called “Rock Rock Rock” starring Noh Min Woo. KTW’s story is filled with a lot of heartache and emotional turmoil. Not only was he addicted to drugs, he tried to commit suicide, he got swindled, his work was stolen, etc. That’s a lot for a 47 year old to go through but maybe that’s why his songs are so good.
Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook recently had the band perform and the band invited several of Boohwal’s past singers. Its interesting to see how different each singer sang the same song and if you can, its definitely worth watching.