Sunday, July 20, 2008

오빠 생각

This is supposed to be a children song that all Koreans from young to old are familiar with. So said our teacher. Her remark sparked off my interest to find out about what makes this song so special that its appeal cut across different generations of Koreans.

The song lyrics originated from a poem. 뜸북새 and 뻐꾹새, in the first verse, are two species of birds frequently seen during summer. 뜸북새 or 뜸부기 is crake, a kind of waterhen, whereas 뻐꾹새 or 뻐꾸기 is cuckoo. 기러기 and 귀뚜라미, in the second verse, are associated more with autumn. During autumn, 기러기 (wild geese) will be seen flying down from the North and 귀뚜라미 (cricket) will sing the loudest. These animals play an important role in the poem. Not only do they tell the time of the year, they are also substitutes for the young sister's 오빠 (older brother) when she was thinking of her brother who left her for Seoul.

The poem was written from a young sister's perspective. We know it because of the presence of the word "오빠" in the poem. It can also be said that the young sister "existed" in the poem because of 오빠 and it is through this young sister of 오빠 that we are made to feel a sense of missing, longing and disappointment. Before I go further, here is the translation.

"During the time (summer) when the crake in the paddy field and the cuckoo in the forest sang, my brother rode on a horse and said that when he goes to Seoul he will buy and bring back a pair of silk shoes for me. And then ...

When the wild geese flew down from the North (autumn), only the crickets were heard singing sadly. There was no news from my brother who went to Seoul. There was only autumn leaves falling in mass."

The poem was written during the period when Korea was colonised by the Japanese. It is an elegy - a poem or song written to show sorrow for the dead or for something lost. The 오빠 in the poem signifies the freedom that was lost while the young sister represents the voice of the Korean people who waited and longed for their 오빠 to return, only to be sadly disappointed as time passed by.

Most Koreans may be familiar with the song "오빠 생삭", but not many know that its lyrics or the poem was actually written by a 12-years old girl. 최순애 (Choi Soon Ae), from Suwon, wrote this poem. It was first published in 1925, under the children poem's corner, in the November issue of the magazine "어린이". The following year April, a 16-years old guy, 이원수 (Yee Won Soo), from Masan, had his poem "고향의 봄" published in the same corner of the magazine. Through "오빠 생삭", Choi Soon Ae met her real-life oppa, Yee Won Soo, and they were subsequently married in June 1936. However, it was to be many more years later before the 오빠 in Choi Soon Ae's poem finally returned.

1 comment:

  1. is it? 오빠생각 was written by 12 years old girl. what a discovery.