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Arirang's evolution into a key symbol of Korean identity during Japanese colonization.

Arirang, “the song of the Korean people,” is a representative folksong that expresses Korean sentiments.

The Korean people emigrating overseas remember Arirang as the “memory of the home country,” and both North and South Koreans sing Arirang as a kind of joint national anthem under the Unification Flag at international sports events. Ultimately, Arirang is the cultural icon that is the most “Korean.”

Most Koreans regard Arirang as a very old song. There have been various attempts to find its origin, including the nationalistic perspectives to search the myths involving egg-related stories or the foundation of the country, and some attempts to search ancient legends such as the “Arang seolhwa: Arang tale” in the case of Miryang -Miryang, or Milyang [密陽市] is a city in South Gyeongsan Province in the southeast part of South Korea – Arirang from the Joseon period (1545-1567), as well as the “Jungnim chilhyeon: The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” [竹林七賢, third century, China] from the time of the foundation of Joseon (1392), in the case of Jeongseon -Jeongseon [旌善郡] is a county in Gangwon province in the northeast part of South Korea. – Arirang.

However, Arirang is never thought to be an ancient folksong from many centuries ago. It was only in the modern times of the Japanese ruling era that Arirang grew to be the “song of the Korean people,” on the strength of the success of the film Arirang, produced by Na Un-gyu in 1926.

The local “Arirang sori” (Arirang songs) – “Arirang sori” is the term for the numerous Arirang songs (Lee Bo-hyeong, 1997, p. 85). – with numerous versions are songs of the “modern times” of the 20th century. Most of the songs are not folksongs formed as longstanding cultural artifacts of local communities. Rather, they were produced by individuals in the short period of the Japanese ruling era, which resulted in their modernity.

Arirang of the Seoul-Gyeonggi region, “Gangwondo Arirang” of Gangwon Province (or Jeongseon Arirang), “Jindo Arirang” of Jeolla Province, and “Miryang Arirang” (or Gangwondo Arari) are considered the most representative among the existing Arirang songs.

As the oldest type of Arirang songs among them, Gangwondo (or “Jeongseon” Arirang), transmitted as a farming song in Gangwon Province, is the song from which other Arirang songs derived (Lee Bo-hyeong, 1897, p. 114).

The other three pieces were produced in the last century. These Arirang songs were formed in distinct historical stages of the Japanese ruling era. They were not “composed,” but rather popular songs that were traded orally, reflecting the social and cultural conditions of the colonial period. In this paper, I intend to examine how Arirang songs developed during the colonial period to become “the song of the Korean people.”

sourse: Lee Yong-shik, “Chapter III. The Formation and Development of Arirang in Modern Times”, 『KOREAN MUSICOLOGY SERIES, 5 ‘KOREAN FOLK SONG, ARIRANG’』 71p, National Gugak Center, 2012.
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