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Trot singer, professor promote film 'Arirang' to mark Independence Movement Day

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Professor Seo Kyung-duk, left, and trot singer Song Ga-in / Courtesy of Seo Kyung-duk

Professor Seo Kyung-duk, left, and trot singer Song Ga-in / Courtesy of Seo Kyung-duk

By Dong Sun-hwa

Trot singer Song Ga-in and Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women's University and activist known for promoting Korea overseas, have joined hands to promote the 1926 movie, "Arirang" and its creator Na Woon-gyu, in celebration of the country's March 1 Independence Movement Day.

They released a four-minute video introducing "Arirang" and Na on Thursday as part of KB Kookmin Bank's Long Live Korean Independence campaign. The campaign, launched in 2019, intends to shed light on Korea's independence movement against Japanese colonial rule (1910-45).

Known for its patriotic message, "Arirang" is named after the country's traditional folk song, which was registered on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2012.

"'Arirang' embodies the Korean soul and is now captivating the world beyond Korea," Song said in the video. She rose to fame after her appearance in the 2019 audition show "Ms. Trot for Tomorrow."

The video notes that "bonjo arirang," one of the most well-known versions of arirang from Gyeonggi Province, is the theme song of the movie, which was directed by Na. He also made an appearance in his film.

"Arirang" revolves around Yeong-jin — played by Na — who becomes mentally ill after being tortured by the Japanese for his involvement in a protest against the occupation. Following his release, he returns home but soon faces another tragedy after learning that Gi-ho, a collaborator with the Japanese police, attempted to rape his sister, Yeong-hui. Yeong-jin ends up killing Gi-ho during a hallucinatory episode and gets caught by the Japanese police.

"Na Woon-gyu used metaphors and allusion to portray the harsh reality of colonialism," Song said. "'Arirang' was a new form of protest, as it brought comfort and hope to audiences ... It was screened in Korea and abroad even after Korea's liberation [in 1945]."

The movie marks a major milestone in Korean cinema history for reviving the national spirit of its people at a time when Japan sought to eliminate the country's folk culture. However, the film itself was later lost to the Japanese during the colonial rule.

"One of the prime tasks for people of our generation is to illuminate once more the historic figures who are being forgotten and present their lives through videos," Seo said. "To do so, we have shared our 'Arirang' video on various social media platforms and Korean communities."

Seo has also collaborated with actor Kim Nam-gil to mark the day, sharing another video featuring the sapsarees — also known as sapsal dogs — that are native to Korea. The dogs were first deployed to Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in 1998 to safeguard the area of territorial dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.

Dong Sun-hwa


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