Song of the Day: “Morning Dew”

Today is May 18, and marks the 31st anniversary of the Gwangju Democratization Movement. In remembrance of those who fought and lost their lives in pursuit of democracy in Korea and elsewhere around the world, and for those who are still struggling somewhere at this time, I dedicate this song- “Morning Dew” by Kim Min-Gi.

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(For the lyrics and song explanation, see below…)

Note: “This Youtube video is showing the public funeral of Lee Han-yeol, a democratization activist who was killed by being shot by a tear gas canister in the head in 1987. Lee was a 22 years old student at Yonsei University. His death served as a spark for the June Struggle, which dealt the fatal blow to the military dictatorship in South Korea.”

Morning Dew

긴밤 지새우고 풀잎마다 맺힌 진주보다 더 고운 아침이슬처럼
Like morning dew, prettier than pearls, hanging on every blade of grass
내 맘에 설움이 알알이 맺힐때
When sorrow hangs in my heart, drop by drop
아침동산에 올라 작은 미소를 배운다
I hike the morning hill and learn a little smile

태양은 묘지위에 붉게 떠오르고
The red sun rises over the graves
한낮에 찌는 더위는 나의 시련일지라
And the sweltering heat of the day is my trial
나 이제 가노라 저 거친 광야에
I shall now go, into that barren desert
서러움 모두 버리고 나 이제 가노라
Casting off all the sorrow, I shall now go.

About the song:  
“In 1971, Kim Min-Gi recorded his only regular solo album. Within a year of its release, the authoritarian Park Chung-Hee regime banned the album. The entire available stock of the album was recalled and incinerated. Kim could not release albums or appear on television or radio anymore, and had to rely on his musical soul mate Yang Hee-Eun to sing his songs instead. A few years later, Kim’s song ‘Morning Dew’ was specifically banned, and even covering the song was not allowed.

South Korea’s dictatorship correctly assessed the danger of Kim’s gifted songwriting. On top of his elegantly simple tunes, Kim Min-Gi added lyrical poems that were at once hauntingly beautiful and deadly sharp. ‘Morning Dew’ is the prime example of his ability to metaphorically urge a struggle against oppression. The morning dew is the tears collecting on every blade of grass, every person. When morning dews collect, ‘I’ must go into the barren desert like a messianic hero, toward the glory of the sun that rises over the graves of the fallen.

South Korea’s authoritarian regime succeeded in some respects — Kim Min-Gi was driven out of the larger pop culture, and was relegated to composing musicals that were barely played in some colleges. For stretches of time, Kim totally gave up on music and turned to farming for years. But in a more important way, the authoritarian regime failed utterly. The few surviving copies of Kim Min-Gi’s first album were secretly copied and distributed like a badge of honor among the democratization activists. The democratization activists would first sing ‘Morning Dew’ quietly among themselves, and then loudly during their protests. Over time, ‘Morning Dew’ would be the de facto anthem of the pro-democracy protesters. A song about a fragile natural phenomenon became a roaring call for freedom sung by thousands and thousands of people, beaten down by police clubs and covered in tear gas. South Korea would fully democratize, and Kim Min-Gi’s albums were finally unbanned in 1993.”

-English translations and all quotes taken from Ask a Korean

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5 Responses to Song of the Day: “Morning Dew”

  1. supah says:

    This is a wonderfully moving song to commemorate a tragic yet landmark moment in Korea’s history. Just watching these events reconstructed in Sandglass and (less extensively) in Giant floor you, nevermind the real deal.
    Thanks for the translated lyrics, blue. *hugs*

  2. bella012 says:

    Do you remember the bruhaha over your former boytoy attending some private dinner held in honor of Park Chung Hee- talk about stirring some reactions out of everyone!

    • blue says:

      It wasn’t in honor of Park Chung Hee, but a birthday celebration for another former president… I think Chun Doohwan or Roh Taewoo? Park Chung Hee wouldn’t have garnered such an outrage from others b/c he’s generally respected by Koreans still.

      Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure it was Chun Doohwan’s birthday celebration. (He was the president responsible for the Gwangju massacre.) Yup, his celebration would have done it b/c even I was pretty disgusted that there was such an elaborate birthday party for him too.

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