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Seoul Arts Center revives forgotten Korean music genre

Yoo in-taek, head of the Seoul Arts Center, speaks at The Korea Herald’s Global Business Forum on Wednesday at the Ambassador Seoul - A Pullman Hotel in Seoul. (Jenny Sung)
Yoo in-taek, head of the Seoul Arts Center, speaks at The Korea Herald’s Global Business Forum on Wednesday at the Ambassador Seoul - A Pullman Hotel in Seoul. (Jenny Sung)


Yoo In-taek, head of the Seoul Arts Center, sees the potential of “gagok” -- a genre of Korean vocal music with poetry -- as many feel nostalgic for the nearly forgotten genre of music in South Korea.

“We have a 100-year history of gagok, which may be remembered by the older generations. Some 15 million people from the older generations have nostalgia about gagok they used to learn in class and hear in their childhood. We are planning for performances of gagok targeting those audiences in efforts to revitalize the genre,” You said during the lecture at The Korea Herald’s Global Business Forum on Wednesday at the Ambassador Seoul - A Pullman Hotel.

Gagok began with composer Hong Nan-pa, who released “Bongseonhwa,” meaning “Garden Balsam,” in 1920 after he was moved by a poem of the same title written by Kim Hyung-jun that described the sorrow of the Korean people in the Japanese colonial era.

While the genre of Korean music slowly lost popularity as music performances in the country have become diversified into opera, ballet, musicals and other forms, many people have a “thirst” to listen to that music that has faded into old memories, he said.

“We have staged a gagok performance titled ‘Rule of Romance’ aimed at young people who may be unfamiliar with the music genre, featuring a story telling about love. We have staged the performance two times -- late last year and Valentine’s Day this year,” he said.

“We will keep staging the performance with an updated version of the show, covering gagok of today such as ‘First Love’ that was composed by Kim Hyo-geun.”

From Aug. 12 to 15, Seoul Arts Center will stage a gagok festival at Daegwallyeong, an 832-meter-high mountain pass in Taebaeksan in Gangwon Province. The festival will feature gagok performances and music competitions, he added.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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