Climbing up the Korean music charts and driving on
the wrong side of the road
You know how some songs are released and then forgotten (or not even noticed by most) for a long time, and then they make a seemingly miraculous climb up the music charts? There is a 3-syllable Korean word for it and it’s related to driving!
And the word is 역주행 [yeok-jju-haeng]. It’s one of those words that can either have a very negative meaning or a very positive meaning depending on the context. The original meaning is “driving on the wrong side of the road”, which is definitely a very dangerous thing to do and bad news for everyone. But the other, idiomatic meaning of this word, which means climbing back up the music charts after a long period of no popularity, is always welcome news for musicians.
But first, let us begin with the components of this word: 역 means “opposite” or “reverse” and 주행 means the “drive” or “run” of a vehicle. So 주행, when used alone, is found in various driving-related expressions such as:
- 주행 테스트 = road test for a new car
- 도로 주행 시험 = road driving test (to get a driver’s license)
- 주행 거리 = mileage of a car
- 주행 가능 거리 = distance to empty (how far a car can go with the amount of fuel remaining in the tank)
So when someone is doing 역주행, they are driving on the wrong side of the road and that is a big problem. But when you say that a certain song is doing 역주행, it means a certain song is going up the music charts in an unexpected way, a long time after its first release or exit from the charts.
One of the most iconic examples of 역주행 is EXID’s 위아래, which became popular when a fan cam video became a huge hit on YouTube. A more recently 역주행한 노래(song that climbed up the charts) is 롤린(Rollin’) by 브레이브걸스(Brave Girls). Brave Girls and their songs gained popularity about 4 years after their song Rollin’ was released.
역주행 was not totally uncommon in the past, either, but these days, with various music shows featuring songs and artists who were popular a long time ago, and some retro-themed TV shows like the Reply series featuring the 70s, 80s and 90s as the background scenes, it has become more common for older songs to start trending once again. A more recent example is 유재석’s TV show 놀면 뭐 하니 ? featuring SG Wannabe and making their old songs trend again. Social media is also playing a huge role in this, as fans actively participate in creating fun video edits to help spread the word about their favorite artists.
Another idiomatic expression you can see with 주행 is 정주행. 정 in this case means “correct” or “right” and 정주행[jeong-ju-haeng] means watching a TV series, movie series or reading a series of books or comics in sequential order, from the first episode to the last episode. So it’s similar to binge-watching, except you don’t have to be watching many episodes in one sitting. As long as you are diligently watching one episode after another without starting from the middle, you are doing 정주행.
나 요즘 그 드라마 정주행하고 있어 . = I’ve recently started watching that drama from the start.
나 그거 일주일 만에 정주행했잖아 . = You know, I binge-watched it all in one week.
And 정주행 doesn’t just have to be applied to your favorite Netflix series or literature! You can listen to TTMIK’s very own podcasts in a proper 정주행 manner and keep improving your Korean little by little every single day, or you can sit down and 정주행 through our various online Korean courses to learn even faster!
Thank you for reading and 다음 시간에 만나요!