Give Me an UP Beat

Authored by:
Nikia Brown

Paul Thompson, MARZ Music Group

Paul Thompson, one of the most successful and respected songwriters and producers in K-pop, came to talk to CIEE participants about his journey as a music artist in South Korea. He shared how he left his uninspiring career in tech to move to Korea to teach English to kindergarteners. While he enjoyed working with children, music -- his first love -- inspired him to try his luck with one of the biggest music entertainment companies in Korea, JYP. Little did he know, whimsical email to a JYP publicist would be the beginning to his now thriving business, MARZ Music Group. 

Paul Thompson speaking to students about his music career at Yonsei University.

Thompson, the 31-year-old Californian native, is the only non-Korean to be signed as an in-house song-writer by JYP Entertainment - a K-pop and economic powerhouse.  After completing his contract with JYP, he moved on to write songs for some big stars at another K-pop giant, SM Entertainment. Currently, he is focused on growing his own business, MARZ, which has about 10-15 songwriters exclusively signed. Thompson and his eccletic cohort of song-writers have written songs for some of the best in the business including EXO, Girls' Generation, and SHINee. When asked to provide some advice to young teens interested in getting involved in the music industry, Thompson said it is important to discover your true talents, hone your craft, and never succumb to the disappointment or challenges of adversity. "Never give up!" 

Group picture with song-writer and producer, Paul Thompson.

Tiger JK

Everything about the students' faces read, "Pinch me, I must be dreaming." Just hours ago that day, the students were learning about Korean hip-hop legend, Tiger JK, and now they were sitting across from him in a classroom on Yonsei's campus listening to him share about his professional successes and personal challenges. Despite the initial disapproval of the older Korean population, Tiger JK rose to the top of Korean charts in the 90s producing rap music -- a unique sound in Korea at the time. He overcame a crippling disease that left him paralyzed for two years, struggled with alcoholism before becoming sober after his father's passing, and learned to re-invent himself as an artist who did not need alcohol or public approval to feel and walk worthy of his vocation. Tiger JK's talk to our students was a timely and inspiring message about the importance of discovering true identity and authenticity. 

A program leader introducing Korean hip-hop artist, Drunken Tiger JK.

A student's social media post about Tiger JK's talk.


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