May 5th is Children’s Day in Korea. It is one of children’s favorite times of the year, but the pandemic has made outings or celebrations very difficult for children and their families again this year. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but these days it would be more appropriate to say that it takes the whole world to raise a child. It is time for the entire global community to make this world a happy place for children. In pansori Simcheongga심청가, there is a passage in which Simcheong’s father begs for other women’s breastmilk to feed his motherless baby. After losing his wife a few days after the baby girl’s birth, the blind man would have been completely lost as to what to do to raise a tiny infant. It wasn’t like there were disposable diapers or baby formula back in those days. So he had to rely other breastfeeding mothers’ kindness to share their milk with his baby girl. He visits fields or water wells where women are likely to gather and ask them to breastfeed his baby. Fortunately, the kind mothers cuddle and feed the baby as readily and lovingly as they would their own children. They even offer to nurse Simcheong until she weans. The blind man would have been immensely grateful and smiles for the first time since his wife died. Here’s master singer Sung Chang-soon singing that passage from Simcheongga with drum accompaniment from Kim Deuk-su.
Passage from Simcheongga/ Sung by Sung Chang-soon, drum by Kim Deuk-su
I’m sure that every pregnant woman wishes for a healthy baby above all. It would seem too greedy to ask for a baby with a beautiful doll-like face or with an Einstein-level brain. But as that baby grows up, parents begin to demand more and more out of him. If the child hits puberty and begins to act out, his parents may even blurt out that an enemy from the past life returned as their child. But that is, in most cases, just an insincere grumble spoken out of momentary frustration. Most parents want their children to see and hear and experience only the best and most beautiful things and to live happy and fulfilling lives. The song “A Prayer for a Beautiful World” written by Yu Eun-seon is about such parental love.
Dear baby, do you know how big this world is, the vastness of this world?
I will pluck pretty stars while you sleep and put them at your bedside.
I will pluck the morning star so that you would have a pleasant dream.
The melody is just as pretty as the lyrics and likely to turn your heart as soft as marshmallow. Let’s listen to Park Ae-ri singing “A Prayer for a Beautiful World.”
A Prayer for a Beautiful World/ Sung by Park Ae-ri
There is a Gyeonggi-do folk song titled “Hoisimgok회심곡,” which means a song about a change of heart. The lyrics tell us how to live a virtuous life like a decent human being. The most heartfelt passage in the song is about a child thinking about his parents’ love for him.
I came into this world having taken the bones from my father and flesh from my mother.
They prayed to the gods for my good fortune and long life for ten long months.
When they raised me, they worried that I would be cold in winter and hot in summer.
They paid a huge price to raise me so well.
But I wasn’t aware of their love when I was little.
Oftentimes, parents are already too old or deceased by the time people are mature enough to appreciate the depth and sincerity of their parents’ love. That’s why we should act on our love while they’re still alive. May 8th is Parents’ Day in Korea. It would be a perfect time to call or visit them and tell them how much we love them. Let’s conclude this week’s Sounds of Korea with “Hoisimgok” sung by master singer Ahn Bi-chwi.
Hoisimgok/ Sung by Ahn Bi-chwi