Back To Top

[Lee In-hyun] His passion for the country -- Sibelius

In South Korea, June is known as the month to commemorate patriots, veterans and service members. During the month, we have two very special national holidays: Memorial Day, honoring those who have fallen serving the country, and Korean War Memorial Day for those who sacrificed their lives fighting for democracy. My mind often feels solemn on this month as the country recognizes our service members, patriots and veterans.

For more diverse and professional music studies, I decided to study in the United States 13 years ago. Because of having a great desire to learn and improve my musical skills, I focused on studying and learning, never distracted by anything else. Plus, I practiced the piano as much as I could, sometimes going without breaks and meals until I was satisfied with my practice. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed national holidays because they were the only days I could take a break without pressure from studying.

On a Memorial Day while I was studying in Boston, I decided to take a break from studying and practice, and planned to stay home all day watching Netflix. Then, my friend called me to join them for brunch near Newbury Street, the most enchanting street in Boston. I was exhausted, but after her persuasion, I changed my mind and decided to hang out with her. After brunch, we went to Boston Public Garden. The park was packed with people remembering past and active service members with multiple American flags hanging throughout the park. It was very impressive. She told me that she listens to “Finlandia of Sibelius” every Memorial Day and she explained its meaning to me. After coming back home, I listened to the music and looked up more information about the composer.

He was born in Finland and became the greatest composer of his country. He made a huge contribution and fought for independence from Russia. Since he was a musician, he made music for the motherland and the people of Finland. While under the Russian regime’s control, the people of Finland were barred from publishing and broadcasting and were not allowed to hold any group meetings.

He did not give up and wanted to fight for his country. In a rare opportunity, he had a chance to host a concert. He decided to make his own music for the occasion, touching on his country’s history. His piece spread throughout the country like wildfire and triggered patriotism in peoples’ hearts. As a result, the people had a strong desire to protect and love the motherland. As the music triggered a stronger national bonding among citizens, Russia prohibited his music and barred it from ever playing. However, Sibelius and Finnish musicians did not give up playing the music. They played the piece whenever they could. When they held concerts in different countries, they put the song in the program. This is how they communicated Finland’s reality to the whole world.

When I read about him and listened to “Finlandia,” I really thought about my country, Korea. Finland and Korea are very similar. In the past, Japan invaded and plundered my country. They wanted to change everything to benefit themselves. As a part of the Korean Nation Eradication, they shut down schools, prohibited Korean language and trampled on traditional Korean culture. However, many Koreans resisted the abuse and made various efforts to protect their national identity. Thanks to freedom activists, we kept our brilliant culture and Hangeul even while under Japan’s colonial control.

Remembering national historical events through music is very special to me. If possible, I hope you feel the same way as I am feeling. During this month of remembering service members past and present, I highly recommend you listen to “Finlandia of Sibelius,” it will take only nine minutes of your time.

Lee In-hyun
Lee In-hyun is a classical pianist and author of the award-winning book “The Classic Class” published in January 2021. She works both in Korea and the United States. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California. ( -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (