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Lyrics from 190 songs to be exhibited at National Hangeul Museum

Lyrics from 190 songs to be exhibited at National Hangeul Museum

Posted May. 15, 2020 07:41,   

Updated May. 15, 2020 07:41


A song titled “Falling Flowers and Flowing Water” from a silent movie of the same name released in 1927 has been known as the first pop song of South Korea. Silent-film narrator Kim Seo-jeong wrote lyrics and composed songs, which became very popular and were launched as a full album in 1929. At the time, lyrics were called the “poem of a song,” which demonstrates the poetic nature of lyrics.

The National Hangeul Museum will host a special exhibition titled “Korean Pop Lyrics: Melodies of Life” from May 15 to October 18. The lyrics from over 190 pop songs, from “Falling Flowers and Flowing Water” and to more recently “IDOL” by BTS, as well as 222 pieces, including a variety of albums, lyrics journals, lyrics books, and phonographs, will be showcased.

“Tearful Miari hill where I saw my dear honey disappear last / Being blinded by the gun smokes groping to see far ahead…”

The above is the translated lyrics of “The Impresario's Miari Hill” written by Ban Ya-wol. Songs like Ban’s, which comforted the pain and sorrow of the Korean War and division on the Korean Peninsula, as well as songs that became available through the so-called “Eighth United States Army shows,” such as “Nillili Mambo,” were well-loved by people in the 1950s, the National Hangeul Museum said. For example, the cheerful lyrics “Hello shoeshine! Shine your shoes!” from a 1954 song titled “Shoeshine Boy” contain the suffering of war orphans who had to make money at young ages.

Meanwhile, songs like “With You” depicting the glamorous development and ideals of cities, as well as those singing on a sense of isolation and nostalgia as a result of the country’s rapid industrialization, such as “Hometown Station,” were popular in the 1960s and 70s. Visitors to the exhibition can easily grasp the changes and characteristics of lyrics over time.

Jong-Yeob JO jjj@donga.com