Music and Memory

“March for the Beloved”

Controversy has erupted over plans to commemorate the Gwangju Massacre.  In particular, people are angry that the singing of the song above will no longer be mandatory:

“The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs issued a press release on Monday announcing a plan to hold a 36th anniversary ceremony for the May 18 Democratization Movement. According to the ministry, the song ‘March for the Beloved’ will be performed by a chorus during the ceremony, and participants who wish to sing along can do so.

However, the ministry said it will not require participants to sing along. ‘We did our best to minimize the controversy while respecting the free will of participants,’ the ministry said.

The song was written in 1982 for a posthumous wedding ceremony of two protestors killed by military forces during the 1980 Gwangju uprising. Hundreds of civilians were estimated to have died in the suppression of the uprising against the authoritarian Chun Doo Hwan regime.

Novelist Hwang Sok-yong wrote the lyrics of the song, and Kim Jong-ryul, a music student, composed the melody. It has become an anthem for democracy activists for decades.

North Korea, in 1991, used it as background music for a film, fueling controversy surrounding the song and its ideology.”

Here is a more in-depth analysis of the lyrics to the song.  It was composed by two pro-Democracy activists shortly after the massacre.

The key sticking point seems to be that the song is now as much a eulogy for the dead in Gwangju as it is a piece of propaganda for North Korea.

Whoever said art was never political?

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This entry was posted in Advanced Conversation, Korea, Kultur, Language, Music, North Korea, Politics, South Korea. Bookmark the permalink.

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