Issue 4, Volume 18
I had a long thought about how to express my culture and my thoughts in a cohesive and interesting way. At first I was going to do a movie review of ‘Train to Busan’ and its recent sequel ‘Peninsula’, but I got a little too sentimental listening to some music. So, here are some Korean song recommendations along with some of my thoughts, specifically about us as young people living through COVID-19 and the new economic recession.
‘오 그대여 부서지지마
Oh my dear do not break
바람새는 창틀에 넌 추워지지마
Do not feel the chill from the wind coming through the window cracks
이리와 나를 꼭 안자
Come here and hug me tightly
오늘을 살아내고 우리 내일로 가자
Survive today and together we go forth toward tomorrow’
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsznX5j2oQ0 )
This song called ‘Nan Chun 난춘 (亂春)’, meaning dizzy spring or chaotic spring, was released recently in May by one of my favourite Korean rock bands, ‘Se So Neon (새소년)’. It was indeed a dizzying experience last Spring in Korea, when it was one of the first hotspots of COVID-19 cases. Now that Australia comes to the end of its winter, lListening to this song made me think back on my experience at the end of Korea’s winter earlier this year.
I went home in mid-late January, the first time in about a year after a long gruelling experience of being a first year living abroad. Being in the northern hemisphere it was still cold then and despite being a hardcore ‘summer person’ I was so excited to be there. I wanted to eat food that would actually burn my mouth if the menu said it was ‘spicy’, to be in the back of my dad’s car blasting music he disapproves of, to go to church and get into debates with conservative Busan Christians about basic human rights. You know, all that good stuff.
My joy was short-lived when we realised that I may need to book a flight back to Melbourne early.
I remember getting hourly reports of the growing number of positive COVID cases from the telly. I remember sitting on the sofa with my parents and my sister, watching the news, clutching my phone and waiting anxiously for email notifications about travel bans. I remember during the last few days I was with my family, after finally making the tough decision to book new tickets so that I would land in Melbourne in case I get stuck overseas, I had a thermometer stuck in my armpit and my nurse mother fussing over me to see if I was showing any symptoms. For days I actually did have a mild fever due to the anxiety and stress of the situation and the sheer fury I felt from having my yearly reunion with my family unjustly ruined.
I remember not being able to look back at my parents one last time and waving goodbye as I walked through the terminal gates. I was afraid that if I saw them I would cry, which would raise my temperature and I would get caught by the body-heat scanners and sent home. I remember crying over the phone with them in the SkyBus on the way to Southern Cross, the moment when I knew I would be able to stay in Melbourne for the year.
I was back in Australia’s summer from that brief homecoming in Korea’s frigid winter, skipping the ‘dizzy spring’ of Korea as thousands of COVID-19 cases began to emerge as the ice thawed. I remember asking, just asking without any expectation of a real answer, why this? Why now? Why us?
‘오 지금 내가 어디로, 어디로 가는 걸까
Oh where am I going, going from here
나는 무엇을 위해 살아야, 살아야만 하는가
What is it that I am truly living, living for
나는 왜 이길에 서있나
Why am I standing on this road
이게 정말 나의 길인가
Is this really the road meant for me
이길에 끝에서 내꿈은 이뤄질까
Will my dreams come true at the end of this road
나는 무엇을 꿈꾸는가
What am I aspiring for
그건 누굴위한 꿈인가
Who is this dream truly for
그꿈을 이루면 난 웃을 수 있을까
Will I be smiling when that dream comes true’
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWmfn3agzrU )
This song ‘Gil 길’, meaning way or road, was a song introduced in the early 2000’s by the K-pop boyband I used to stan as a child, g.o.d (stands for Groove Over Dose, pretty cool innit).
Recently the song was covered by a few musicians through a TV program called ‘Begin Again’. It’s a show I enjoy and highly recommend (especially the first and latest seasons). It’s usually about taking very famous and well-loved Korean musicians abroad to countries where they would be absolute nobodies. There, they would perform songs and serenade foreigners through street performances. This year was special since overseas travel was banned, the producers decided to put on street performances for the people of Korea to uplift their heavy and battered hearts, tired from the aftermath of being a COVID-19 hotspot.
Watching their videos, you can see how everyone sits distanced from each other, wearing masks or staying in their cars as they all listen to songs from once upon a time, thinking of better days and unsure futures. During the deeply emotional performance of ‘Gil’ the audience are in a sea of tears as they take in the words of the song. As I watch, I think about how Metro Melbourne has been a ghost town for the past few weeks and how we are all feeling like those Koreans crying from the little bit of solace they get from their favourite musicians singing their favourite depressing song.
Little child don’t grow weaker
슬픔을 혼자 안고 살지는 마
Don’t hold onto your sadness alone
아빠야 어디를 가야
Father, where must I go
당신의 마음처럼 살 수 있을까
So that I could live my life the way your heart lived
가장 큰 별이 보이는 우리 동네
We can see the biggest star in our neighbourhood
따뜻한 햇살 꽃이 피는 봄에
Under the warm sun, in the blooming spring
그댈 위로해요 그댈 사랑해요
Giving you comfort, giving you love
With this song just for you’
This is one of my dad’s favourite songs from 2016, ‘하늘바라기 Sky-gazing (Hopefully Sky)’ by Eun-Ji Jeong. The music video was shot in Busan, where both he and I grew up. I can’t help but think that this was the spring that should have been ours this year.
Most of us are in our 20’s and living through the ‘spring’ season of our lives. It is hard to reconcile with the fact that the way we are living now is the new norm and that we will never be able to go back to how things used to be. It is even harder when we think about how all of this is happening to us during the arguably the greenest and most beautiful season of the timeline of our lives. Looking back to say goodbye to ‘what was’ will only make us weep, while not looking back will make us regret and wish we had gotten one last glimpse.
To make a sappy conclusion to this long ramble of emotions; we walk the road of our lives, hoping it’s the right one and hoping we will find what we had wished for at the end of it. We will be asking, just asking, all of the ‘whys’ and never receive an answer that will satisfy us. I want us to be each other’s tiny solace by reaching out. We hold a certain level of understanding that only we can give each other as young people in this era. We understand that we cannot be fully understood right now and although it is chaotic, this is still our 20’s, our spring.
Let me know if you need someone to be dizzy with you this coming spring.
Grace is a second year JD student.