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Manoa 14.2 (2002-2003) 36-37

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[East Goes West]

Walking over the peak at Arirang
       you left me behind.
You will be tired before you
       reach one mile.

Walking over the peak at Arirang
the sorrows in my heart are as many
       as the stars in the sky.

With its plaintive melody, this beautiful Korean folk song has a long history. It expresses both sorrow over loss and the will to endure in spite of every hardship—a quality that Koreans can rightly pride themselves on having.

A version of the song was sung by Koreans who were captured by Japanese invaders in the sixteenth century and taken by force to Japan. In the twentieth century, it was sung by Koreans during Japan's occupation of their country, from 1905 to 1945. The many lyrics and versions that were composed during those decades expressed—through metaphors—sentiments that Japanese censors could not suppress. Later, after the Korean War, many American soldiers brought the haunting melody back with them to the United States.




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pp. 36-37
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