[ENTERTAINMENT]Couple's songs rooted in nurturing

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Couple's songs rooted in nurturing

In any part of the world, when a song becomes a big hit, people remember who sings it, not who wrote it. When you ask Koreans about the song "Kilimanjaro's Leopard," most of them will immediately think of Jo Yong-pil, the Korean pop singer who made the song famous in the 1980s. But what about the writers?

Answer: The music was composed by Kim Hui-gap, and the words by Yang In-ja.

Even after 17 years of changes in the music industry, the married couple are still considered a core part of the Korean pop industry. Together they composed more than 300 songs in the 1980s and 1990s.

They first met in 1985 and got married two years later. The couple acknowledged that they know their songwriting is highly regarded. Over the past few years, they have concentrated their work on musicals, most significantly with "The Last Empress" in 1995. As the "The Last Empress" will be running in England this month, they will be leaving for the island country soon. This is the third time they have gone overseas to coordinate a foreign performance of the hit musical.

When I asked them for an interview, instead of inviting me to their home in Gugi-dong, they invited me to their potted tree gallery in Gyeonggi province. They have been growing potted trees for many years. "We have more than 200 potted plants in 20 different varieties," Kim said. "I feel happy when I feel the warmth of the sand. They reward me as much as I love them."

Kim believes that there is a similarity between raising plants and music. "Like people cut their hair to show their beauty, potting helps trees grow by trimming roots and adorning their branches. This is how my music maintained its youthfulness for decades."

Kim has written more than 3,000 songs over 35 years. He is careful about matching the songs to the right singer, which helps keep his work contemporary and fresh.

"If I hadn't met my wife," he said, "my music would have been all over in the 1980s. When I work in a certain field for more than seven years, I start losing interest in it. In 1960s, I worked on Korean pop, in the 1970s on movies, and in the 1980s I returned to Korean pop and started to gain popularity by writing hits. At the time I started to lose interest in Korean pop again, I met my wife and her superb lyrics. Ever since then, my music has gradually improved."

In spite of all he has accomplished, Kim is still ambitious. "I want to experience every field of music. In the 1990s, I was more into musicals. This decade, I want to make a worldly musical by adding Korean traditional melodies."

For this reason, Kim has recently been working on "Mongyudowondo," a musical that adopts many different kinds of Korean traditional instruments. The musical is expected to be a turning point in his music career. Together with the help of his wife, the only thing that remains is finding out whether they can surpass the public's lofty expectations.

by Jung Jae-wal

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