Student preserves Koreas’ traditions through song

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Student preserves Koreas’ traditions through song

While political and military tensions between the two Koreas have not been this fraught since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, one high school student is hoping to preserve the cultural traditions that both Koreas share through the publication of a book of songs.

Joo Hyo-sung, a student at Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies in Yongin, Gyeonggi, had his book, “Neither South nor North: The Songs We Used to Sing,” published in October.

Joo first started thinking about the similarities and differences between South and North Korea after a foreign student asked him whether he was “from the good Korea or the bad Korea” at a Model United Nations Conference in Boston in 2009.

That prompted him to start thinking about the divided nature of Korea. Through his book, he wanted to show that the cultural roots of the two Koreas are still the same.

He chose 15 songs from North Korean song books - including “Spring of My Hometown” and “A Collection of 1,000 Folksongs of Chosun” - that were also widely known in South Korea.

His book features songs such as “Arirang,” “Roasted Chestnut Song,” and “Spring of My Hometown.”

His grandfather, who had grown up in the North and escaped to the South during the war, helped him learn the melodies to the songs. “His accounts of songs in the North was of amazing help to this book,” Joo wrote in the book’s prologue.

In a press release about the book, Joo said he hopes that the book can deliver a message of peace and preserve the countries’ shared traditions for the next generation.

The book has been donated to schools and libraries in South Korea and the United States, and all proceeds will go toward supporting education for young North Korean defectors.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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