Before there were TWICE and BLACKPINK, K-pop fans knew Girls’ Generation as the most popular girl group.
The group now consists of eight members; Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun after the departure of Jessica in 2014.
Also known as SNSD, the group is still one of the most popular K-pop groups worldwide. They belong to what fans call the second generation K-pop groups who were active from 2003 till 2011.
This generation of K-pop singers is credited for bringing their music out of South Korea and making waves in China, Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
SNSD’s 2010 song Gee in particular, became the first single by a non-Japanese girl group to enter the top three of the Oricon chart since 1980.
Their 2013 song ‘I Got a Boy’ reached number one on Billboard’s Korea K-pop Hot 100 and the Gaon Digital Chart.
Its music video went on to beat Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, winning Video of the Year award at the inaugural Youtube Music Awards in 2013.
In 2019, Billboard ranked Girls’ Generation at number on their ‘Top 10 K-pop Girl Groups of the Past Decade’ list.
Then this year in 2022, the ladies will be returning with an album to mark the group’s 15th anniversary.
The album titled Forever 1 was their seventh studio album and released on Aug 8, 2022.
Consisting of 10 tracks, the album includes the lead single ‘Forever 1’.
What makes ‘Forever 1’ a special song for both SNSD and their fans is that it was written by Kenzie.
She is a songwriter who had worked with the group for their songs such as ‘Oh!’ (2010), ‘All Night’ (2017) and ‘Into the New World’ (2007).
‘Into the New World’ is a nostalgic track because it is SNSD’s debut single.
Composed by Kenzie and written by Kim Jeong-bae, the song was meant for another K-pop group M.I.L.K.
M.I.L.K is practically an unheard of K-pop group but two of their members Seo Hyun-jin and Park Hee-von are now popular actresses.
Anyway, the group disbanded in 2003 and the song was kept in the dark until SNSD came along.
The group had their first ever stage performance on Mnet’s School of Rock in July 2007, performing their first single ‘Into the New World’.
Fifteen years since the song first released, the song had became more than just a song which started a girl group’s career.
This K-pop song has become a symbol of unity and hope for the younger generation across Asian countries.
‘Into the New World’ and Ewha Womans University 2016 Protest
The first time ‘Into the New World’ was reported to be a politically symbolic song was back in 2016 and it all started in an all-female university.
Ewha Womans University is a private women’s university in Seoul founded in 1886 by American missionary Mary F. Scranton.
Today, it is one of the world’s largest female educational institutes and one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea.
In the summer of 2016, the university got caught up with the wider case of South Korean political scandal.
This is due to a former student, Chung Yoo-ra who was admitted under a special rule change thanks to her mother’s connection to South Korean President Park Geun-hye despite not meeting the requirements.
The students held a peaceful protest for days, not only against the corruption behind Chung’s enrolment, but some of the university’s unilateral changes to the degree system.
According to The Korea Herald, the school administration was planning to accept 150 students without college diplomas annually under the new program named Future LiFE (Light up in Future Ewha) starting in 2017.
To that, the students claimed that the school is ‘reproducing the exact hierarchy of elitism’ by insinuating that a degree is paramount proof of practical expertise.
The climax of the protest happened when 1600 police officers were sent to a school building a group of students that reportedly numbered around 200.
While facing the police, CBC News reported, “The students, covering their faces with baseball caps and masks and standing arm in arm, burst into the popular K-pop song ‘Into the New World.’”
‘Into the New World’ and the Candlelight Vigil
At the same time, South Korea was going through political turmoil as protesters denounced President Park Geun-hye’s 2016 administration.
From November 2016 till March 2017, a series of protests known as the Candlelight Vigil or Candlelight Demonstration were held to call for the resignation of Park.
As protesters gathered at public squares, K-pop songs including ‘Into the New World’, along with Big Bang’s ‘Bang Bang Bang’ (2015) and Twice’s ‘Cheer Up’ (2016) were played on speakers.
After the news of President Park was impeached broke out in December 2016, demonstrators both young and old were caught on camera dancing to ‘Into the New World’.
‘Into the New World’ in protests outside of South Korea
In early 2020, Thai protestors began to demonstrate against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The protesters were mostly students and young people who first demanded the dissolution of the Thai Parliament, ending intimidation of the people and the drafting of a new constitution.
At first, the protests were held on academic campuses but were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then on July 18, 2020, the protests resumed with a large demonstration organised under the Free Youth Umbrella at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.
With the younger generation leading these protests, K-pop music was sure had some sort of influence to them.
Hence, it was no surprise when ‘Into the New World’ was played and became the unofficial anthem for the movement.
K-pop fans even took it up notch when they went on donating for these protests.
While most of the money was used to fund legal help for the young protesters, it was also used to buy protective gear such as helmets and goggles for them.
‘Into the New World’ and South Korean LGBTQ+ community
Speaking of an anthem song, a South Korean LGBTQ+ community has chosen ‘Into the New World’ as theirs.
NEON MILK is an LGBTQ+ and drag culture collective collaborated with one of Girls’ Generation members, Tiffany Young in a Youtube video in conjunction with Pride Month.
In the 2021 video, Young shared that it is such an honour that the community has chosen ‘Into the New World’ as their anthem every year.
It is all in ‘Into the New World’ lyric
To understand why this particular song has become a symbol for reformation and change, we have to go back to the lyrics.
While it is a song that can be addressed to a lover, it is also about embracing the journey ahead of you.
The second verse goes, “Don’t wait for a miracle, there’s a rough road in front of us with obstacles and future that can’t be known, yet I won’t change, I can’t give up.”
The part which resonates the most is perhaps the chorus. “I love you, just like this. The longed end of wandering. I leave behind this world’s unending sadness. Walking the many and unknowable paths, I follow a dim light. It’s something we’ll do together to the end, into the new world.”
The expression of love in the lyrics symbolises that these demonstrations are meant to be peaceful.
Moreover, the lyrics invoke sense of unity and togetherness as these movement fighters came together to call for a change.
While western countries have songs such as John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (1971) and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) as their Baby Boomer’s protest songs, it is safe to say that here on the other side of the globe Girl’s Generation’s ‘Into the New World’ is the anthem for the new generation.