Be Strong, Geum-soon!

Be Strong, Geum-soon (굳세어라 금순아) is widely-known as the 2005 MBC drama, starring Han Hye Jin and Kang Ji Hwan. It’s also the title of a 2002 film, starring Bae Doona and Kim Tae Woo.

But did you know that the original “Be Strong, Geum-soon” is a hit song from 1953 by Hyun In? Despite its fast tempo and the cheerful spirit with which the song is sang, ironically the song is about two people who got separated during the Korean War.

The year 2010 marked the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, and many dramas and movies about the Korean War were produced this year (i.e., Into the FireRoad No. 1Comrades). Since I didn’t watch any of them (although I saw enough of Road No. 1 to know that it was a hot mess of a drama), I decided to do a post about the song “Be Strong, Geum-soon” instead.


(Here’s a version of the song by Song Hae. Song Hae is a famous MC in Korea, best known for hosting the show “The National Singing Contest” (전국노래자랑) for 22 years, since 1988. Coincidentally, he was originally from South Hwanghae province in what is now North Korea, and got separated from his family during the Korean War.)

“Be Strong, Geum-soon”
Original Singer: Hyun In
Composed by Park Si Choon
Lyrics by Kang Sa Rang
Translated by blue1004

At Port Heungnam*, where a snowstorm raged on,
I shouted your name at the top of my lungs and searched for you.
Where did you go, Geum-soon*?
Where are you wandering, lost and astray?
Crying anguished tears, I came alone after the retreat of January 4*.

You, who have no friends and relatives,
What are you doing now?
I became a merchant at Gukje market*.
I miss you, Geum-soon.
I also miss spring at my hometown.
Above the railings of Yeongdo Bridge*,
a new moon sheds its lonely light.

Even if we suffer cruel sorrow of iron curtain,
How can our hearts ever change under this heaven?
Please stay strong, Geum-soon.
When that day comes for the reunification of the North and the South,
Let’s hold hands and laugh together,
Let’s embrace one another and dance together, too!


(Port Heungnam, 1950)

Getting to understand the song better:

*Heungnam is a North Korean port city in South Ham-gyeong province. From mid-December until December 24, 1950, Port Heungnam became the site of a major evacuation of both the U.N. troops and the North Korean civilians escaping from a trap set by the Chinese army. Approximately 105,000 soldiers and 98,000 civilians were transported to Busan and Geojedo, an island on the southern coast of South Gyeongsang province, South Korea. During this massive evacuation, many North Korean civilians got separated from each other.

*Geum-soon used to be a common Korean female name. Like Sam-soon, it is a very old-fashioned name.

*The retreat of January 4 – The North Korean Army and the Chinese Army launched the “Chinese New Year’s Offensive” on New Year’s Eve of 1951. By January 4, 1951, they had taken over Seoul, forcing the U.N. forces to retreat.

*Gukje market is a market in the city of Busan. It opened in 1945, and flourished after the end of the Korean War when many refugees established their businesses there.

*Yeongdo Bridge is a bridge at Busan, and connects Joong-gu with Yeongdo-gu. It became a place where families separated during the war waited to meet each other again.

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