The Spirit of Han (恨)

I first heard this minyo (Korean traditional style) singer, Song Sohee, when she was five years old. I guess you could call her the Jackie Evancho of Korea. She is currently 19 years old, and has appeared in the television music competition program Immortal Songs 2. This is a video of one of her performances, and I chose this one because the song really struck a chord (pun intended) with me as a Korean.

Because of her singing style, I felt that the song was a traditional folk song, though the melody is definitely in the style of the 1960s. Despite its modernity, the elegy style of song is deeply rooted in Korean tradition, and this song is just a ’60s continuation of the style. As one Korean blogger stated “한국인의 피에는 한(恨)이 녹아 있다.” which translates as in every Korean there is the Han (regret, desire, sadness) spirit. This Han spirit originates from the many painful times in Korean history.

The lyricist was Han Sando, the composer Baek Yeongho, and the original singer was Son Inho. There are only 3 stanzas, and the lyrics go as follows (along with translation):

언제까지나 언제까지나  헤어지지 말자고
맹세를 하고 다짐을 하던 너와 내가 아니냐
세월이 가고 너도 또 가도 나만 혼자 외로이
그때 그 시절 그리운 시절 못 잊어 내가 운다


백사장에서 동백섬에서 속삭이던 그 말이
오고 또 가는 바닷물 타고  들려오네 지금도
이제는 다시 두 번 또 다시 만날 길이 없다면
못난 미련을 던져 버리자 저 바다 멀리 멀리


울던 물새도 어디로 가고 조각달도 기울고
바다마저도 잠이 들었나 밤이 깊은 해운대
나도 가련다 떠나가련다 아픈 마음 안고서
정든 백사장 정든 동백섬 안녕히 잘 있거라


Are we not the ones who swore
To never ever fall apart?
Time goes by and so have you, and I am left alone
I cannot let go of that time, so I cry.

The words you whispered on the Dongbaek’s white beach
Even now come back and forth along the sea
If there is no way for us to see each other again
Let’s throw our false hopes far across the sea

Even the crying waterfowl flies and the crescent moon still tilts
And even at night, I can hear the sea sleeping at Haeundae
I too, wish to leave with a heavy heart
I bid farewell to the white beaches of Dongbaek

This post was inspired by two Daily Post Discover Challenge: –  Song  –  For this week’s challenge, tell us the story of your special connection to one song (or another discrete musical composition, from a jazz tune to a techno track or opera aria). When did it start? How has it changed over time? Does the song’s meaning reside in the melody, the lyrics, the performer’s voice — or some other intangible element?


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