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 itโ€™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 donโ€™t know all of its culture). Perhaps is it part of the inner Korean crying out, the blood of my ancestors? Iโ€™m not sure.

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