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‘Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon’ suffers from political situation

‘Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon’ suffers from political situation

Posted April. 27, 2018 07:47,   

Updated April. 27, 2018 07:47


A historic inter-Korean summit will be held in Panmunjom on Friday. The song “Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon” is an old song that symbolically depicts the reality and pain of a divided country. The song (lyrics by Wang Pyeong, composed by Hyeong Seok-ki) sings about eight beautiful scenic spots including Mt. Geumkang, Mt. Halla, Seokgulam, Haeundae, wooden rafts on the Amnok River, Bujeon Plateau and Pyongyang. It is the representative song of the “enlightenment period song” of North Korea sung by Seonwoo Il-seon.

After the recent performance in Pyongyang by South Korea’s art troupe, the word “the enlightenment period song” emerged as a real-time search word on the Internet. The enlightenment period songs, according to North Korea’s definition, were made during the age of national ordeal of losing the country to Japan, inbreathing the spirit of patriotism and independence to citizens. It collectively refers to children’s songs, popular songs, new folk songs and enlightenment songs. The Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon is also regarded to live up to this spirit.

The Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon was remade by tens of famous singers starting from Hwang Geum-sim to Goh Bok-soo, Kim Serena, Park Jae-ran, Baek Seol-hee and Kim Yeon-ja, and is still popular to appear at singing programs from time to time. The song, however, suffers from the pain of getting its lyrics slashed by writers of both South Korea and North Korea. Scenic spots of South Korea would be left out in North Korea whereas North Korean scenic spots would be substituted for South Korean places in South Korea. In particular, it was assumed that the song was called the “Eight Sceneries of Korea” because of the country’s resistance towards the word “Joseon.” For these reasons, the most victimized song since the division of the Korean Peninsula was known to be the “Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon.”

Data that rebuts this opinion has been recently revealed. “Eight Sceneries Song of Joseon” was sung by Lee So-hyang, Muk Gye-wol and Ahn Bi-chui to the orchestra when a new folk song of the Association for Research on Korean Folk Songs was released in 1964, and the eight sceneries that appear in the song were identical to the sceneries in the original song of Seonwoo Il-seon. As such, an unconfirmed hypothesis led to yet another distortion. This writer stops and ponders that it may have been a result that reflected the traces of the record company’s efforts to get rid of any bone of contention in an era where the concept of copyright was opaque.

Seung-Hoon Cheon raphy@donga.com