[FOUNTAIN]Hangul being dilutedThe Nobel prize for literature will soon be announced, and the pool of candidates includes a unique one ― legendary U.S. folk song singer Bob Dylan. Many critics speak highly about the literary value of his introspective and metaphorical lyrics, and Mr. Dylan has been recommended for a Nobel award for a decade so far. Norton and Company, a famous university textbook publisher, included the lyrics of Dylan in its Norton Introduction to Literature a long time ago.
Well-crafted popular song lyrics are as beautiful as poetry. The virtue of a lyric is in simplicity and honesty. Park Geon-ho, who wrote the texts of about 3,000 songs, such as “Forgotten Season” and “Bonfire,” said, “What moves people’s hearts is not the language, but the truth hidden behind the lines.” Poet Yu Jong-hwa said, “Lyrics are far from elegance. Standing on the spot, where you can see life straightforward, and sing your emotion honestly and earnestly, that is poetry.” When that kind of lyric meets a melody that tugs at the heart, it can become a masterpiece and stand the test of time.
In Korea’s history of popular songs, many are remembered as masterpieces with their melodies and lyrics.
When stepping out into the wilderness, Kim Min-gi was inspired as he grasped the moment and wrote, “Staying up a long night, the morning dew on leaves, more beautiful than pearls.” When masters sang or wrote about love, the eternal subject of popular songs, they were passionate, but never shallow. “Darling come to me on this night road, silently under the moonlight, hold my shaking hands, hold my warm heart,” Jeong Tae-chun and Park Eun-ok sang in their song, “To My Love.”
Such beautiful lyrics are rarer these days. Many texts use direct expression, far from lyricism, perhaps reflecting the emotions of the young generation. Some are using too many English words, slang and even Western insults. How should we perceive them?
Western music dominates and the impact of computer technology on language and music is vast. Just look at the titles of 16 of the top 30 songs in a recent domestic program. English titles such as “Keep Holding U,” and “D-LIP ver.1” are some of them.
King Sejong created not only Hunminjeongeum, the Korean alphabet, but also the system of musical notation called “Jeongganbo” to make records of Korean music in an advanced and sophisticated way. We wonder what he would think of his descendants who croon Korean songs mixed with broken English and thus destroy the Korean language as well as hangul.
by Yeh Young-june
The writer is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.