The Korean National Anthem

I mean, technically speaking, national anthems are just music. And usually, the melodies aren’t that complicated either, though occasionally they can have the random high note (like in the American national anthem). And yet, they can bring tears and stir so much emotion in a person.

I never really reacted to the American national anthem, but the Korean and Canadian ones have a special place in my heart, and it’s only been recently. Whenever I hear the Canadian anthem start up, it makes me feel happy inside (wow that’s a really professional way of explaining it, Ashley…). But when I hear the Korean anthem, I almost always start to cry.

Which doesn’t really make sense. I never lived there and I don’t even know everything that an average Korean goes through because I was raised in a mixed Western/Korean environment. And still, whenever 애국가 or  아리랑 turns on, I feel a heavier pressure on my heart and become a lot more emotionally unstable. …it’s weird.

And I don’t even know the words to the anthem either, except the first line: 동해물과 백두산이 말으고 달토록… And then I stand quietly crying while others sing the rest of the anthem. So today, I decided to try to learn (or at least write down) the lyrics for the anthem. Along the way, I discovered some interesting things:

  • There was actually an anthem for the unified Korean country!-

It happened around the time Korea got swept into the whole ‘become a country like all the Western countries are doing and make yourself an empire’ period in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, before the Japanese Colonization era. Korea also got her present flag during this time.

It’s interesting, though, because the ‘Korean Empire Anthem’ was lost/forgotten during the Japanese colonization era. It was unearthed only in 2004 and was celebrated in South Korea. But by then, there was already ‘Aeguka’ (애국가) in place, so this song remained mostly as a historical piece.

Click here to listen to it~

  • What about North Korea?

North Korea uses it’s own anthem. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the anthem didn’t have anything relating to the Kims and focused only on the love of the country. But then I found out that the anthem was only used internationally. Apparently the Kims didn’t like that they weren’t included in the anthem because obviously they mattered more than the country itself. So they have their own anthems, “Song of Kim Il-Sung” and “Song of Kim Jong-Un” that are used as anthems domestically.

…how sad. You can’t even look at North Korea without separating the Kims from the picture. No country should be tied down that much to a single person.

You can listen to the international North Korean anthem here.

  • But then…what will happen when/if the Koreas unite?

*note: I used when/if when speaking about unification because I do want it to happen but there is a lot in between so realism…*

Which anthem will be used? I mean, the North Korean anthem isn’t bad either. Obviously the Kim songs will be tossed out the window and burned and wrecked because never again should they be sung they’re evil but perhaps the two songs will be used interchangeably? Or will just the South Korean one be used since the South is stronger/more well off? That’s what happened with the two Germanies. In fact, the East German anthem “Auferstanden aus Ruinen” (Risen from Ruins) is not used anymore today, though its lyrics can be slightly shifted to fit the melody of the present anthem.

But then again, Korea has been separated a lot more than Germany was. This year, Korea has been split for a whopping 70 years, while Germany was split for 40. That’s enough time for two, almost three generations of North/South Korea (generation in this case being 30 years). So when/if Korea reunites, it’ll be weird for North Koreans. Will it make them feel isolated and as if they’re singing songs about another country rather than their own?

I wonder what North Korean defectors say about this…

~ ~ ~

Okay, I’m getting into a different topic now, one that’ll take a lot more research before I venture into its territory. I’ll stop my rambling here. Hopefully you learned something new from this post, at least!

Thanks for reading friends~ 🙂



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