Arirang: The Layers of a Much Loved Song

//I wrote this as a response to “Song of Ariran” by Kim San and Nym Wales, a reading assigned from my Modern Korean history class. It was about the life of a Korean rebel who before the age of fifteen, lived in Tokyo, Manchuria, and Shanghai chasing after Korea’s independence among exiles and diaspora. It was the most personal response (because it was a free form reaction) and the most intimate response among the history major responses. Fair enough, because I am a Korean American, and these events can be traced back within my family history…

I knew before reading this piece that Arirang was in fact a sad song. It is a song that today is immediately linked to Korea. There are remakes of the song, but more along the lines of pop music, rap songs, or dance covers, rather than the original remakes that landed people in jail for the revolutionary lyrics. I originally knew Arirang from it’s version talking about lovers; reading this piece expanded my connotation of the song.


For some reason, I have a tendency to get emotional when I listen to Arirang, and this began before I knew the meaning of the lyrics. Something about the melody was yearning, raw, and powerful, never failing to draw tears from my eyes (which is ironic considering I never lived in Korea and don’t know all of its culture). Perhaps is it part of the inner Korean crying out, the blood of my ancestors? I’m not sure.

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A New Appreciation for Ballads

I used to not like ballads/slow songs. They were too slow and sometimes had no meaning or emotion. It seemed like some were slow because there had to be a slow song on an album, as if fulfilling some quota. I also thought that ballads were only for when someone was sad. Ballads were almost always about love, anyway. Why listen to someone mourning over one sided love over a breakup? Please, I don’t need any more angst in my life.

But now, I’m appreciating ballads more. When I do find a good ballad, I feel like it’s finding a shining jewel. The emotions are all there, sparkling and wrapped in beautiful colors that seep through the song. And then it’s not the emotions or the tempo that matter; it’s the combination of everything that makes it beautiful.

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My Weird Talent: Phonetic Accommodation

No one believes me. Not even my family; they think I’m trying to be cool or something. They tell me to stop doing it, stop trying to impress people, just stop it.

But I can’t. 

And I finally decided to do some research into it.

I think it started when I was in grade school? I remember we were walking through some impressive executive building with lots of glass windows and my family was together and I started doing some faux British accent, copying what the EPL (English Premier League) commentators said during soccer games. It was entertaining to my grandparents; apparently, it was hilarious to see me doing this somewhat British accent.

But then as I grew older, I realized something bizarre;

I started to do it unconsciously. Or, maybe I did it before or I hadn’t interacted with people with noticeable accents before.

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My Facebook newsfeed has been recently depressing but I’d rather it be like that than live in ignorance to what is going on in the country I live in.

People are being killed.


(even the word itself sounds harsh, wrong, inhuman)

killed because of how



I’m sorry, I must have seen that wrong. Because surely, our society has risen above such childish perspectives? No.

Because it isn’t childish, it’s systematic, it’s what we’ve heard, what we’ve constantly seen on the TV screen, what we’ve eventually absorbed, instinctively

All the studies come out saying that we view our black brothers and sisters differently but okay. so?


this happens.

alton sterling. philando castile. and this only this week. added on top of the long list of others who were killed











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my catharsis + rambling

It’s frustrating when you want to talk to someone out of instinct, but then you


I mean, of course you can

but the ability to do something versus if it’s right (appropriate, fitting for the time being)

is something very different than permissibility.

Things change so fast, don’t they? When once, not too long ago, you let yourself pour out, no inhibitions because you trusted someone because you knew that they would be there to care, no matter what (or so they said)

and then one day, that’s taken away from you-

what do you, what are you supposed to do

with all the words hanging in your mouth, ready to burst?

Should you just let them expire? Don’t those thoughts and emotions deserve some moment of life?


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clear as tears

way back when

they said that rain was when gods cried

//over the misery of the world? because they felt bad for their creatures?//

but crying always did me good,

as if I needed the tears

to clear my vision

and help me see again


so maybe then these god tears

are a shot at redemption:

everything is washed away,

a final burst of emotion

before the start of a new day


~ ~ ~

I felt obligated, or rather, the impulse to write because it’s presently raining outside and it’s been a while since it rained and I’m excited to see how the world will look more fresh tomorrow.

clear as tears, perhaps

washed away

Anyhow. I’m tired but I wanted to put something up, anything, perhaps as a sign that my creative mind is still bustling around and aching to be heard.