Korean Folk Song ‘Arirang’ registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
In December 2012, UNESCO registered ‘Arirang’, which embodies the style and spirit of the Korean people, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. For over 600 years, the value of the Korean Arirang has been spread throughout various regions, and having had positive results, Arirang has truly become globalized. Now, going beyond Korea, Arirang has become a valuable Cultural Heritage that will be protected worldwide.
The search for the 3 types of Korean Arirang…
By region, countless versions of Arirang, the song of the Koreans, have been handed down, and Jeongseon is where it all began. At Jeongseon where the South Han River rafts had their departure point, captains of ships fought tough currents while singing the Jeongseon Arirang during their passage. Also, unrequited love is a legendary theme within Arirang. Even until the present day, without change, Arirang is a song that anyone can sing line by line, each becoming a poet and thus becoming someone from Jeongseon itself.
In addition, from the Milyang Arirang which shows a lightheartedness with its melody to the Jindo Arirang which helps to sooth the tough lives of the island regions, we will get the pulse of the three Arirangs of Korea.
The spread of the historical Arirang throughout Korea
There was a time where Arirang experienced change, and this from the everyday life of one region.
Towards the end of the Chosun era, workers from every region who had come to help with the Gyoungbokgung Palace construction work were given a palace feast to help them recover from their hardwork and weariness. It was here at the feast that the Gangwon province Arari became popular. As the construction finished and workers returned to their hometowns, they continued singing the Arari and later gave their own regional color, thus spreading different versions of Arirang. As a result of the Gyoungbokgung Palace construction work, history was made as Arirang could spread throughout the country.
Afterwards, through director Na Woon Gyu’s movie Arirang, the whole country began to love the song Arirang. Na Woon Gyu developed the ‘theme song of Arirang’ remembering how he heard it from his childhood memories in his hometown of Hweryung. The theme of ‘Arirang’ in his movie became a huge hit and Arirang experienced a renaissance. More than just a popular song, within the lyrics describing the Arirang hill, it expressed the longings of the era and followed with an even larger directional shift.
Among ethnic Koreans In Yanbian, China, Arirang plays a role far greater than that of a folk song.
From Arirang signage hung everywhere to Arirang song classes in ethnic Korean elementary schools, despite having left the motherland many years ago, Arirang is a song that to them represents a longing for the homeland.
For 93 year old Mrs. Shin Oak Wha who left her homeland over 70 years ago, living her whole life for Arirang, despite her being uncomfortable with movement now, even now she remembers Arirang clearly. A life devoted to Arirang, she has a passion like no other regarding Arirang and her emotions resound with a life devoted to Arirang.
Global citizens’ Arirang, the Globalization of Arirang
Adopted at the age of two to the Netherlands, Harpist Ravinia Meijer and the first westerner to become a Seoul National University professor in Korean traditional music Hillary Finchum-Sung: what meaning does Arirang hold for them?
People who protect Arirang, redefining Arirang
Jin Yong Sun has operated the Arirang school in Jeongseon for the past 20 years. Always on the hunt for material on Arirang, there is not a place that he leaves uncovered not only domestically, he also searches worldwide. Because of this, his Arirang school in Jeongseon rivals any museum in its display of all things Arirang.
For years, the fusion folk group ‘Arisu’ has made a variety of attempts to redefine Arirang, and jazz singer Na Yoon Sun who actively performs overseas always includes Arirang in her concerts. Helping a great variety and neverending stream Arirang contents to be cultivated, their efforts are the important foundation that helps ensure Korea’s Arirang to endure.