[KS] Irridentist songs and anti-beef protests?

Alice S. Kim kim.alice.s at gmail.com
Sun Jun 15 09:12:58 EDT 2008


Here is a link to a video of Ahn Chi-hwan singing his song at the  
protest and the lyrics to the whole song in Korean.  It is called 광야 
에서(Gwang-ya-ae-suh) -  I think you can translate it to something  
like 'At the wide plain.'  This was one of Ahn Chi-hwan's most popular  
minjung songs or peoples songs from the democracy movement in the  
1980s - it's also a song that almost everyone knows (across  
generations it seems). (A friend suggested the imperfect comparison to  
Joan Baez.)


(this one just video)

That one line quoted in the IHT article (partnered with Joogang in SK  
btw) is a rather selective sampling of the song and taken out of  
context.  (The rest of the article is equally annoying, it throws  
around nationalism way too carelessly - if you look for it it will be  
there but to say that that is the dominant ethos of these protests is  
in my view mistaken - not to mention if the nationalism is of a  
defensive or aggressive type.) Ahn Chi-hwan performed the song that  
day along with 'Jayu'(Freedom) at the June 10 protest (the largest  
protest so far - estimated 1 million country wide).  Live singing and  
dancing is a regular feature of South Korean protest culture.   Also  
those lyrics in the article are botched, the one line where Manchuria  
comes in goes :

 From the East Sea where the sun rises to the West sea where it sets
 From the hot Southern province to the vast Manchurian plain
How are we poor, how can we waver

The song does sound nationalist (nostalgic) but I think difficult to  
interpret it as irridentist in the context of the whole song and its  
provenance - which is minjung nationalism from 80s. And I don't  
believe people receive it as such.  I think it's got more of a  
politico-spiritual or religious feel - the songs lyrics begin with:
'This lands' tears of blood that disappeared holding in its hands a  
tearing heart...  it's definitely not instigating anyone to take back  
territory that was once theirs or something like that.  And like many  
of his other songs, his lyrics tend to be lose/open/poetic (some parts  
not fitting exactly with others).

Alice S. Kim

On Jun 12, 2008, at 4:07 AM, Kirk Larsen wrote:

> Dear KS List,
> A recent article on the anti-beef protests in the ROK http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/11/asia/seoul.php?page=1) 
>  includes this tantalizing tidbit:
> "People felt their national pride hurt. Protesters, some weeping,  
> were singing a popular song about, not American beef, but an ancient  
> Korean kingdom that extended into what become Manchuria, now  
> northeast China.
> "How can we stop here, when the vast expanse of Manchuria awaits  
> us?" the lyrics go."
> Does anyone on the list know more about this song, its provenance,  
> popularity etc.?
> Cheers,
> -- 
> Kirk W. Larsen
> Korea Foundation Associate Professor of History and International  
> Affairs
> Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies
> 1957 E Street 503
> The George Washington University
> Washington DC, 20052
> (202) 994-5253

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20080615/be4b3ebb/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list