Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Broken VoicesPostcolonial Entanglements and the Preservation of Korea's Central Folksong Traditions$

Roald Maliangkay

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824866655

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824866655.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM HAWAII SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hawaii.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hawaii University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

Masculinity in Demise

Masculinity in Demise

Sŏnsori Sant’aryŏng and Kyŏnggi Minyo

(p.73) Chapter 3 Masculinity in Demise
Broken Voices

Roald Maliangkay

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

The history of the folksong genres Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng and Kyŏnggi minyo reveals that the two genres have changed dramatically in terms of their gender representation over the years. The life stories of the first holders of the two genres testify to the significant impact of colonialism and the Korean War on their work. They also highlight the importance of personal networks and the media for the careers of performers and the preservation of their art. Detailed analysis of the music, repertoire, and presentation of the traditions demonstrates that various changes were effected before and after they were appointed Important Intangible Cultural Properties.

Keywords:   Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng, Kyŏnggi minyo, folksongs, media, preservation, human treasure, Korea, Kugak, Korean War, gender

ON April 18, 1968, Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng (Standing Mountain Songs) became the first folksong genre to be officially recognized as an Important Intangible Cultural Property (IICP). Although another folksong genre, Sŏdo sori (Folksongs from the Western Provinces),1 was recognized in the same year, it was placed ten items lower on the IICP list (no. 29). Holders for both genres were appointed in the following year. Kyŏnggi minyo (Folksongs from Kyŏnggi Province) was designated a year later, and numbered 57, but holders were not appointed for that genre until 1975. That Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng (hereafter Sant’aryŏng) was designated ahead of the other two genres may seem odd considering it has a shorter history than its two counter parts and was always less prominent in the recording and broadcast media. The primary reason for the genre’s early recognition was that its foremost representative, Yi Ch’angbae, was a central figure within the national folksong scene and a former teacher of those eventually appointed holders of Kyŏnggi minyo. The early recognition of Sant’aryŏng has nevertheless failed to prevent it from changing noticeably since. Today, the genre is no longer sung almost exclusively by men, as it was when it was designated. The result has been a change in the look, performance, and sound of the genre. While Kyŏnggi minyo and Sŏdo sori have also come to be predominantly represented by women, this has had much less impact from the viewpoint of tradition since the genres already had many noted female representatives before they were recognized as IICPs.2

Itinerant Entertainment: Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng

A performance of Sant’aryŏng commonly entails a group of female singers holding small hand drums and one male leader carrying a large hourglass drum, all (p.74) of whom stand in a line facing the audience, swaying slightly, and singing with dynamic intensity. Although no harmonizing takes place, both the synchronicity and the gradually increasing intensity of the singing and drumming add considerable impact to the performance. In the past, when the majority of groups originated from provinces along the west coast of the peninsula, the singers would take the audience along on a virtual journey across the country, using lyrics describing the landscapes they would encounter. Today’s lyrics still describe scenery that extends well beyond the capital, but the genre has nevertheless come to be associated exclusively with Seoul. It is said that the second and third songs of the core repertoire describe the mountains in the southern and northern parts of the city, respectively.3

In contrast to the songs from the midwestern Kyŏnggi, and northwestern P’yŏngan, and Hwanghae provinces, where until the early twentieth century Sant’aryŏng constituted a major form of vocal performing art, in the southwestern region (namdo) songs in the Sant’aryŏng genre were usually sung by performing troupes known as kwangdae, which specialized in p’ansori (folk dramatic song).4 Because in this region p’ansori has long been considered a higher art form, the folksongs are not often sung on local stages.5 Yi Pohyŏng comments:

Female performers of p’ansori are therefore able to sing the songs well, but they only came up during the colonial period. During the Chosŏn dynasty, p’ansori singers did not sing Sant’aryŏng, but at the end of the dynasty, when city theaters sprang up and they needed a repertoire as a vocal troupe, the kwangdae troupes learned those [songs] and performed them. So during the colonial period … all those studying p’ansori also studied Namdo sŏnsori. So it may be that only those who perform p’ansori are able to understand Namdo sŏnsori. … Although it was men who sang them first, [nowadays] only women are able to sing them well. There may have been some influence from the p’ansori singing style, but only very little.6

What the term sŏnsori means here is unclear. Although sŏn could signify “standing,” like the character ip in ipch’ang (standing songs), Yi Pohyŏng warns that sŏn also means “first,” or “front,” just like the character ap in apsori (solo singing).7 In this way, sŏnsori could signify solo singing, such as that performed by the leader before the group sets in with the refrain. But since this type of song is commonplace, sŏnsori is usually interpreted in spatial terms instead, referring to the position of the singers on stage.8 This would correspond with the practice of distinguishing repertoires based on whether they are sung seated (chwa) or standing (ip). Even so, the actual position of singers is not set. It is often determined by the conditions—the venue—of a particular performance. (p.75)

Masculinity in Demise and

Hwang Yongju teaching at the Seoul Training Center for Important Intangible Cultural Properties on December 19, 2012.

Sant’aryŏng are sung predominantly by groups of singers, but their number varies considerably. In the last few decades, the group surrounding the current holder, Hwang Yongju, numbered between six and sixty on formal occasions.9 Singers stand in formation beating a plain, white version of the sogo, a small and flat handheld double-headed drum.10 One or two leaders, known as mogap, stand sideways and initiate songs or verses by singing a solo couplet beating an hourglass drum that is slung by a strap over their shoulders. The group then joins in to sing the remainder of the introduction or verse. During performance, the formation of the group changes frequently. A couple of singers regularly take turns stepping forward and singing stanzas, known as apsori. After the group has fallen in to sing a refrain, twit (back/rear) sori, the two singers step back into line. During the songs, the singers rock gently from left to right, but they may become animated when a song reaches a climax. The dance steps, known as pallim ch’um (ch’um = dance), are simple and imply no more than a sequence of slow formation changes.11 The meaning of pallim is unclear; but the fact that the term is also used to indicate the movements of p’ansori performers when acting out a scene suggests that it comes from the verb pallida, which can mean “to expose.”12 The songs are energetic and cheerful, and the audience is more than once enticed to clap along to the rhythm. As the performance progresses, the vigor with which the singers beat their drums increases and the singing becomes significantly louder and more expressive.

In general, Sant’aryŏng require a wide vocal range. Paek Taeung argues that the difficulty of the singing style lies in the fact that the voices do not slide by gradual progression from octave to octave but rather jump beyond what he calls the “fourth octave.”13 Other particularly demanding aspects of the Kyŏnggi repertoire are its constantly changing rhythmic structure and strong dynamics. (p.76) Since the songs include many different stanzas and must be sung with considerable expression, singers need to be well trained lest the songs end up sounding joyless and convoluted. Chŏng Tŭngman, former holder of Sant’aryŏng, once described the songs as “light, just like the food in Seoul, and straightforward like spice.”14

In 1968 the Sant’aryŏng of Kyŏnggi province were designated IICP no. 19, along with holders Kim Suhyŏn (real name: Kim T’aebong, 1898–1970), Yu Kaedong (1898–1975), Kim Sunt’ae (1914–1978), Chŏng Tŭngman (1907–1992), and Yi Ch’angbae (1916–1983). Perhaps because the repertoires from the south-western (namdo) or northwestern (sŏdo) regions are relatively short, they were not initially considered for designation, though as discussed in chapter 1, in 2009 the latter were designated as a separate, regional folk art. The core of the official Kyŏnggi repertoire comprises four songs: “Nollyang” (also known as “Nollyŏng”), “Apsan t’aryŏng” (Song of the Front Mountain), “Twissan t’aryŏng” (Song of the Rear Mountain), and “Chajin sant’aryŏng” (Fast Mountain Song). According to Hwang Yongju,15 “Kaeguri t’aryŏng” (Song of the Frog) could be considered part of the core repertoire as well, as it is always sung at the end of Fast Mountain Song. Other songs that are often included are “Tohwa t’aryŏng” (Peach Blossom Song); the standard, narrative (sasŏl), and fast (chajin) versions of “Panga t’aryŏng”; “Kyŏngbokkung t’aryŏng” (Song of Kyŏngbok Palace); and “Yangsando.”16

Although the singing style is similar for both the Kyŏnggi and northwestern repertoires, the latter are sung considerably faster. In the southwestern region, where local folksongs have a distinct sound, the two central songs are sung in a style very similar to that of the Kyŏnggi genre, presumably because they derive from it.17 A performance of the southwestern repertoire would typically start with the song “Poryŏm,” which although designed to rid the performance space of evil spirits,18 would in the past be performed while enticing the audience to donate money. It first follows the moderate rhythmic cycle of chungmori (12/4) but then moves to the faster chungjungmori (12/8), kutkŏri (12/8), or chajinmori (12/8). A song that routinely follows is “Hwach’o sagŏri” (hwach’o = flowering plant),19 which has a rhythmic pattern much like that of “Poryŏm.” The two songs are commonly followed by songs such as “Sagŏri,” “Hŭng t’aryŏng” (Sighing Song), Song of the Frog, and the common version of the popular “Yukchabaegi,” a slow lament to a six-beat (18/8) rhythmic pattern, which Han Manyŏng defines as “a song of lost love, of poverty, life and desertion.”20

Presumably because the Kyŏnggi province repertoire is believed to be the origin of the northwestern repertoire, the Kyŏnggi version of “Nollyang” is sometimes referred to as “Ku nollyang” (ku = old) and the northwestern version as “Shin nollyang” (shin = new).21 What nollyang itself means, however, remains (p.77) unclear. The song’s lyrics convey the thoughts of a person walking through the countryside on the way to a temple as part of a troupe, with the northwestern version also expressing a yearning for a lover. The Kyŏnggi song is divided into two parts: a long, relatively fast first part (one beat = 275~330/min) and a short, slightly slower second part (one beat = 216~240/min) that consists of approximately three verse lines starting with the term yukkuhamdo (wide road), referring to the main road leading from Hanyang county in south Kyŏngsang province to China via Seoul.22 The first part is very similar to the northwestern version and starts with a long introduction called ch’omogi (trees and plants),23 which Han Manyŏng describes as partially incoherent Buddhist incantations.24 This introduction is sung to a slow rhythmic pattern, but as the song gradually quickens it occasionally shifts to the rhythmic cycle of semach’i (9/8). Apart from shifts in rhythm, “Nollyang” includes many high-pitched notes.25 Chang Sahun argues that because of this complexity few people can sing the song properly.26

Below are translations of the lyrics of both the Kyŏnggi and northwestern versions of “Nollyang” as transcribed by Hwang Yongju:27

  • Introduction:
  • The landscape is dense, but we enjoy the sightseeing.
  • Ee..ehe naha-a-ŏ ŏ-ŏya-a-a e-ehenaha-a toneroguna ma nŭn-nehe eheeya.
  • Ee..ŏ ti-i-i-i-i-i-iŏ-ŏ-ŏlleroguna ti-i-i-i-i-i-i-i..eradiyŏ ŏ-ŏ-ŏyana illeroguna-e yŏ-ŏ ŏdi-i-i ŏlshiguna chŏlshiguna, amuryŏdo neroguna, eŏdi-i-i-i-i-i..eŏdi-i-i-i-i-i ti-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-iŏ-e naha-a-a aha-aŏ iŏlleroguna.
  • Verse 1:
  • Ee.., Listen, the road along which the willows stand stretched leads straight to the office of the governor of Pyongyang, ee..ehe-e-e iŏ-iŏlleroguna.
  • The spring trees are in full blossom and the wild geese fly with a steady flap of the wings. A tall pine tree with heavy branches has cracked with a snap and the dead branches are all that’s left.
  • Chijihwajaja, wouldn’t that be nice.
  • Chijihwajaja, wouldn’t that be nice.
  • Ŏlshiguna, all right, listen up, ee..ehe-e-e iŏ-e naha-a-a aha-aŏ iŏlleroguna.
  • Verse 2:
  • Even if we walk all day, Ch’ŏngnyong Temple will still be in Ansŏng. Still dreaming of a forest in January, and a small fish in March, [second part begins here], the wide road now has monks of all levels, ŏlshiguna chŏlshiguna, amuryŏdo ne.
  • The day all green willows, fragrant plants and love plants darken, e..aha iŏlleroguna.
  • (p.78) (SŎDO)
  • Introduction:
  • Eradiyŏ ŏ-ŏ-hŏya yo-oho-olleroguna, the road that stretches toward the green willow leads us straight onto Mount Pukhyang, ee..ehe-ehe-ie-ŏ-ŏhŏya yo-oho-olleroguna.
  • The spring trees are in full blossom and the wild geese fly with a steady flap of the wings. A tall pine tree with heavy branches has cracked with a snap and the dead branches are all that’s left.
  • Chihwajaja, wouldn’t that be nice.
  • Chihwajaja, wouldn’t that be nice.
  • Verse 1:
  • Ŏlshiguna, good, listen up, we leave the life of mortals behind us and climb the blue mountain, ee..ehe-ehe-ie-ŏ-ŏhŏya yo-oho-olleroguna.
  • The twilight persists while the tailed cuckoo sits on a tree, and another sits on the ground.
  • Where did you suggest we go?
  • Where did you suggest we go?
  • When you cross this mountain you will find the tailed cuckoo.
  • When you cross this mountain you will find the tailed cuckoo.
  • Verse 2:
  • The picture of a young face and beautiful body keeps entering and leaving my sight. Her whispering is ringing in my ears.
  • I pray, I pray, I pray for my wishes to be fulfilled.
  • In March, the wide road has monks of all levels, ŏlshiguna, chŏlshiguna.
  • My love is like piles of grain, my love.
  • When I open the south-facing window and the north-facing window and look, my love deepens like piles of grain.
  • My love crawls over the rocks by the pine tree.
  • A wooden roller, the vines of love plants and tobacco plants, the vines of a gourd, they are as thick as the love that has become entangled in my chest, ee..nae-e-elleroguna a-aha-a.

The differences between the Kyŏnggi and northwestern versions of “Nollyang” are fairly small overall, both in terms of the music and the lyrics. The same can be said about the song that is usually sung next, Song of the Front Mountain. Both versions of this song describe the mountains around Seoul, but the north-western version’s sixth and final verse may have been added later, as it rather suddenly refers to scenery around Pyongyang.28 As in the case of “Nollyang,” both versions of the song convey the thoughts of a person traveling to a temple, with the northwestern song adding a yearning for a lover. Singers use many high-pitched notes and strong articulation. The music and lyrics of the northwestern version are virtually the same as those from Kyŏnggi, but it is sung approximately (p.79) a third quicker (one beat = 176~184/min as opposed to 116~126/min) and follows a set rhythmic cycle, semach’i, while the Kyŏnggi version follows a triplet-based beat that does not follow a particular cycle.29 Hwang Yongju transcribes the first parts of the Kyŏnggi and northwestern versions of the song as follows:30

  • Introduction:
  • Nanŏ ninano-ho oho-o-o e-ehŏ ehŏ ehe-eya-ehŏ-ŏ ehŏ iŏ-ŏhŏru, it’s a mountain.
  • Verse 1:
  • The hermitage for Buddhist chant on Mount Kwanak in Kwach’ŏn is located on [the mountain’s highest peak, called] Yŏnjudae. At Pulsŏng Temple on Mount Tobong [the road] turns toward Sammak Temple.
  • Ee..eŏ ŏdi-i ihŏ-ŏhŏ ehe-eya-e hŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ ehŏihŏ ŏru, it’s a mountain.
  • Verse 2:
  • The phoenix of Mount Tan comes flying in with a bamboo fruit in its beak. The Naktong River in Sangju surrounds Mount Taebaek in Kyŏngsang province while Mount Chiri in Chŏlla province is only surrounded by the Sŏmjin River in Ha-dong.
  • (SŎDO)
  • Introduction:
  • Nane noni na ehe-e ehe-e no-o nahe-e hero, it’s a mountain.
  • Verse 1:
  • Yŏmburam Temple on Mount Kwanak in Kwach’ŏn is located on Yŏnjudae. At Pulsŏng Temple on Mount Tobong [the road] turns toward Sammak Temple.
  • Ehe.. ehero chi-i chiroguna mar-ŭlleya nae-ehero, it’s a mountain.
  • Verse 2:
  • The white horse stamps his four hoofs clang clang, while you just sigh wringing your white hands. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry such heavy tears. Even if you cry endlessly, there’s nothing I can do.

The northwestern version of Song of the Front Mountain closely follows the Kyŏnggi version in terms of music and lyrics, even borrowing the latter’s first and fifth verse; but with as many as eleven verses the Kyŏnggi version is considerably longer.

Of equal length is Song of the Rear Mountain. In Kyŏnggi province, the song is also known as “Chunggŏri” (chung = center/middle), which Chang Sahun explains as deriving from being the second of the three core songs.31 The lyrics and (p.80) the singing style are very similar to those of Song of the Front Mountain, but the tempo of the northwestern version (one beat = 264~276/min) is almost twice as fast as the Kyŏnggi one (one beat = 144~162/min). Like the previous song, it is usually sung to a triplet-based beat but without following a particular rhythmic cycle.32 The introductory first line is identical in both the Kyŏnggi and the north-western versions:33 “It’s low, but it’s a mountain, ee.., there are azaleas on the plateau too, it’s a mountain.” Hwang includes a second and third introductory line for the northwestern version that are omitted from other transcriptions, because these lines are not regularly sung: “One, Nonsan, two, Kangyŏng, three, Poju, four, Pŏpsŏng. They all enclose Yŏsan Port. Ee..eheyo eheyo e-ŏ ŏhŏya, [there are azaleas] on the plateau too, it’s a mountain.”34

The fourth song of the core repertoire, “Chajin sant’aryŏng” (Fast Mountain Song), is also known as “Toraji t’aryŏng” (toraji = bellflower).35 According to former holder Yi Ch’angbae, his teacher Pak Ch’unjae told him that the reason for this was that at the end of the song there used to be mention of a bellflower in a line that has since dis appeared.36 Unlike the other songs in the core repertoire, neither the Kyŏnggi nor the northwestern version, which is called “Kyŏngballim” or “Kyŏng sagŏri” (A Sunny Crossroads), has an introduction, but singers sometimes sing the introductory line of Song of the Rear Mountain instead. It describes scenery and makes references to Buddhism by naming temples and alluding to reincarnation, by pondering over the spirits of a fallen tree and a bird. Hwang transcribes the first verse of Fast Mountain Song as follows:

Why have you lain down there on the blue mountain, old pine tree? Is it because you snapped, unable to withstand the wind and the snow? Who knows whether the wind has blown? In the meantime, who knows about the accident? The tree trunk sways and the summer rain is about to pour as clouds gather on Mount Mansu.37

Hwang’s version of the first verse of “Kyŏngballim” is as follows:

In the region bordering on China [i.e., Korea] these are noisy times. Half of the three mountains stretch beyond the blue sky. On the sand bank in the middle of a division of two streams sits a white egret. You just hassle me by saying “where shall we go?” You just tag after my heels saying, “where shall we go?” [So] I suggest we go to Ch’ŏngnyong in Ansŏng.38

Like other Sant’aryŏng, Fast Mountain Song starts slowly but gradually quickens and becomes more cheerful as it starts to follow a six-beat (6/8) rhythmic (p.81) cycle (one beat = 126~132/min). The Kyŏnggi and northwestern versions of the song are not only nearly identical—Han Manyŏng recalls Yi Ch’angbae once telling him that the slightest error could make them sound indistinguishable—but their melody is very similar to that of Song of the Rear Mountain.39

Shin Ch’an’gyun argues that a song called “Homi kŏri,” the title of which he says derives from homi (hoe) and kŏllida (to hang),40 should be added to the Kyŏnggi repertoire.41 Since the song shares many thematic and structural aspects with the four basic songs of the repertoire, Yi Ch’angbae also supports the song’s inclusion in the official Sant’aryŏng genre. The song was often sung in the Kyŏnggi countryside around mid-July as part of a folk play to celebrate the completion of the rice weeding, but it was eventually incorporated into the repertoire of courtesans/entertainment girls (kisaeng) and thus was performed seated as well. Shin reports that the song was transmitted by Kim Hyŏn’gyu (1942–2004), who was born in Koyang City.42 In the early 1990s, after doing some teaching at the school of the then holder of Sŏdo sori, Yi Ŭn’gwan, Kim set up his own institute, the Institute for Folksongs from Kyŏnggi Province and Standing Mountain Songs (Kyŏnggi minyo sŏnsori sant’aryŏng hagwŏn). His school looked out on Tansŏngsa Theater, just off Chongno 3-ga in central Seoul, and was located in a building across from where Hwang Yongju had his institute until the late 1990s.43 When I asked Hwang Yongju, holder of Sant’aryŏng, and Yi Ŭnju, holder of Kyŏnggi minyo, about Kim’s activities, both singers were rather dismissive of his skills, but in 1998 he was nevertheless appointed as holder of Kyŏnggi Province Intangible Cultural Property no. 22, Koyang Songp’o Homi kŏri, which comprises music and ritual from Songp’o-dong in Koyang City. Because of the separate designation, and its strong emphasis on farming, the song can no longer be included in Sant’aryŏng’s standard repertoire.

The Early Years

There is a consensus among scholars that Sant’aryŏng are based on the songs sung by itinerant Buddhist entertainment troupes called sadangp’ae (temple group troupes; p’ae = troupe) or yŏsadang (female temple groups). The troupes go back as far as the early Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910), when just like two other major types of troupes, kwangdae and kŏllipp’ae,44 they traveled across the country to earn their living by performing music and dance at market places and town squares. Until the nineteenth century, the troupes had semiformal ties to Buddhist temples, on whose behalf they are said to have performed.45 In exchange for the earnings they passed on, the temples provided them with food, lodging, and patronage. But the ties the troupes had with temples were (p.82) controversial. At the start of the long dynasty in which Confucianism became the dominant state religion, King T’aejo (r. 1392–1398) banned the establishment of new Buddhist temples and set up a registration system for monks in order to prevent the religion from growing further. Many Buddhist temples were subsequently destroyed and their properties and slaves confiscated. Buddhism was given some chance for recovery from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, but the religion was fervently suppressed after that and eventually turned into a faith practiced primarily by women.46 Although they were not officially tied to the Buddhist institution, sadangp’ae were not exempted from government prosecution. Yi Nŭnghwa cites a government ordinance from the True Record of the Chosŏn Dynasty (Chosŏn wangjo shillok) that was allegedly sent out to the governors of all provinces in August of the eleventh year of King Sejo (1465): “The so-called sajang [sadang] falsely claim a connection with Wŏn’gak Temple and they beg for offerings while carrying writings with the seal of Wŏn’gak Temple on it. They go around all regions and because they often collect valuables, we inform the governors of all districts and order them to immediately arrest and imprison the people who behave in this way, whether they are monks or not, and report to the court.”47 Possibly because of continued government interference, by the nineteenth century the troupes’ connection with temples was lost.48

Sadangp’ae consisted of between one and five women, with whom the term sadang became associated, and between four and ten men, the kŏsa (lit. “Buddhist devotees”).49 The men wore trousers and jackets, and towels around their heads, while the women wore brightly colored skirts, jackets, and, occasionally, a fur cap known as an ayam.50 The troupes’ repertoires consisted of songs, Buddhist chant, dance, and acrobatics. Yi Pohyŏng told me:

Initially, these troupes sang Buddhist songs, but many people disliked them so they started singing [a sequence of] cheerful folksongs called “P’an yŏmbul” [staged Buddhist chant]. The women just sang while the men [sang and] accompanied the singing by playing small drums and dancing. The singing was antiphonal, or call and response. The sadang did the call part [apsori] and the kŏsa would respond, with the drums as well, followed by another woman singing a call part. Because they performed for a long time, they had to sing various songs. They first sang some Buddhist songs and then many folksongs.51

Because very few sources describe the troupes’ activities during the Chosŏn dynasty, scholars generally rely on the work by two folklorists active during the colonial period, Yi Nŭnghwa and Song Sŏkha (1904–1948). Song briefly discusses how the troupes staged their performances,52 but even though he, unlike (p.83) Yi, based his analysis partly on fieldwork,53 neither scholar offers a clear insight into the style and content of performances in the earlier centuries of the Chosŏn dynasty.

The temples that had a connection with sadangp’ae were able to use the earnings the latter passed on to cover their building and repair costs,54 but they were not always able to provide lodging within their perimeters. Some of them arranged lodging at a cabin in a nearby village, which was nicknamed sadanggol (sadang camp). A famous one, near Ch’ŏngnyong Temple, was located in Ansŏng City, in Kyŏnggi province. It appears in the lyrics of Chat’an’ga” (Song of Lament), which Yi Nŭnghwa included in his 1927 study as part of the repertoire of sadangp’ae:55

  • I put on a pretty dress made of the finely wrinkled ramie from Hansan and go to Ch’ŏngnyong Temple in Ansŏng to perform.
  • Is my hand a door-ring? This fella grabs it; that fella grabs it.
  • Is my mouth a wine cup? This fella sucks it; that fella sucks it.
  • Is my stomach a ferry? This fella rides it; that fella rides it.

Sim Woo-Sung, a scholar and performer well known for his work on itinerant performing troupes, argues that the sadangp’ae were little more than bands of prostitutes and the performance merely a pretext.56 Although the troupes made money by performing and selling Buddhist amulets (pujŏk) from the temple they had a connection with, he believes that prostitution was their primary source of income and that they dedicated only a portion of their income to their patron temple. Sim is not the first academic to have held this view of the troupes’ primary service. On the back cover of the October 1940 issue of the partly Korean-run journal Korean Folklore (Chosŏn minsok), in which Song Sŏkha’s study on sadang was first published, the title of his article “Sadang go” (Scrutinizing sadang) is translated into English as “On ‘Sadang’ or Wandering Prostitute Singers.” Although each woman formed a pair57 with one of the kŏsa, Sim believes that the latter were merely “parasites,” as they did not perform any major part in the act.58 While the mogap (leader) took care of management, the other men made themselves useful by looking after the women, either by acting as their pimps or by doing small chores for them, including carrying heavy luggage.59

According to Sim, sadangp’ae began to dis appear toward the end of the Chosŏn dynasty, with the last troupes performing in the 1930s.60 Yi Pohyŏng argues that their disappearance may have been occasioned by people’s dislike of women singing in marketplaces,61 but because the troupes had always belonged to the lowest social class, there may be another explanation. Kim Sung Soon posits that the abolition of palace and municipal slavery in 1801 removed the incentive for many commoner women to join itinerant performing troupes,62 (p.84) but they nevertheless persisted for at least another century until they eventually transformed into their predominantly male counterpart, the namsadangp’ae (nam = male).63 For various aspects of their performance, these namsadangp’ae used boys in their preteens or younger, called mudong (dancing boys).64 Their small weight allowed the group to perform complex acrobatic routines. But although the boys were able to reach higher octaves relatively easily, they had inferior voices and were unable to sing more elaborate Buddhist chants. The troupes therefore performed mostly masked dance dramas, farmers’ music, and puppet plays.65

Like the sadang, the boys were often used for prostitution, so having good looks was important.66 Sim is therefore rather cynical about the image painted by the Sant’aryŏng lyrics. Rather than seeing the sadangp’ae and namsadangp’ae as followers of some Buddhist order, he regards them as troupes of lesbians and homosexuals, respectively, who, given the strict moral codes of Chosŏn society, needed to roam over the peninsula in order to live independently.67 The 1991 Great Dictionary of Korean Folklore (Han’guk minsok taesajŏn) also makes note of the male troupes’ homo sexuality but does not mention if this was a private matter, merely related to the troupe members, or commercial, born out of a need to survive, or both.68 A former member of a namsadangp’ae has, however, commented that when he and others performed sexual acts with other men it was for purely commercial reasons.69

In the early twentieth century, apart from these types of itinerant troupes, a new kind of singing formation emerged, called sant’aryŏngp’ae or sŏnsorip’ae. The troupes, which comprised up to eight members, were mostly active in Seoul, where they busked standing at marketplaces and town squares and, on some occasions, though mostly in a seated position, in theaters and at the houses of aristocrats.70 Their repertoire and stylistic pedigree are traced back to the first known singer of Sant’aryŏng, Ŭit’aek (1780–?), who headed a troupe named after him. The singer Hŏ Tŏksŏn and his pupil Kim Pangul from Pyongyang are credited with having used the Kyŏnggi sant’aryŏng of Ŭit’aek and his student Chongdae to create a northwestern repertoire, but Seoul continued to offer the primary venues for the troupes.71 Chongdae passed on his repertoire and style of singing to Shin Nakt’aek,72 who became a noted singer around the end of the nineteenth century and at the start of the colonial period joined a sant’aryŏngp’ae in Seoul that included the renowned singers Kim Pyŏnggyu, Kim Ŭngnyŏl, and the female singer Wŏlsŏn. Although it was officially named the Hojo Tari Troupe (tari = bridge)—named after the Hojo Bridge in Seoul’s central Chin’gogae area, today known as Ch’ungmuro—it was also known as the Chin’gogae Wŏlsŏni Troupe due to Wŏlsŏn’s popularity.73

Several sant’aryŏngp’ae from Seoul were named aftera bridge because of their involvement in the national folk festival known as Tapkyo (tap = to tread; (p.85) kyo = bridge). Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, the festival is believed to date back to the early days of the Chosŏn dynasty.74 Regardless of age, sex or social status, people would gather on this day to cross twelve bridges, or, presumably, any bridge as many as twelve times, in order to avert any illness of their legs and feet—the word tari also means leg(s)—throughout the year. In Seoul, every one would participate in the celebrations, though according to Chang Sahun, the aristocracy performed on the preceding day in order to avoid mixing with the common people. Im Tonggwŏn argues that they performed on the day after the event as well, though not so much because of the commoners per se, but because on the actual day, popular bridges in the city center were simply too crowded to cross.75 Indeed, the physical demands of performing on the day of the festival may explain the large number of female performers on the following day.76 Sometime before the start of the official parades, residents of Seoul would come to the Poshin’gak bell pavilion on “Bell Street” (Chongno) in the center of town to await the sound of the bell before heading off to their favorite bridge accompanied by the music of a troupe.

Among the most prominent sant’aryŏngp’ae from the Seoul area were the Ttuksŏm Troupe, which included the noted singers Hwang Kiun, Yi Tongshik, and Yi Tongun; and the Kwach’ŏn Panga Tari Troupe, named aftera bridge by a water mill (panga), which included the well-known singers Han Int’aek and So Wanjun (b. 1870), the teacher of later holder Chŏng Tŭngman. Other well-known troupes included the Nalt’ang Troupe from Pyongyang;77 the Paeogae Majŏn Tari Troupe, which included the noted singer Pak Samsoe; the Ch’ŏng Troupe from Ch’ŏngp’a-dong; the Tchanji (= pickled radish) Troupe, made up of the singers Kim T’aeun, T’ak Pongman, Yi Myŏngsan, Yi Myŏnggil, and Paek Naktang;78 and the Wangshimni Troupe from Seoul’s Wangshimni District, which included the eminent singers Ha Sunil and Yi Myŏnggil (1890–1960). Besides these famous troupes, there were the Han’gang Troupe, presumably named after one of the bridges across the river (kang/gang) Han in Seoul; the Soebunggu Troupe, from Sŏbinggo; the Chamunbak Troupe; the Yongsan Samgae Troupe, from Yongsan District and the adjacent Map’o District; the Tongmak Troupe, from Kongdŏk-tong; and the Sŏngbuk-tong Troupe, named after the area northeast of central Seoul.79

Because sant’aryŏngp’ae often had female members, many scholars believe they originated from sadangp’ae.80 Indeed, there is sufficient evidence for a historical link between today’s Sant’aryŏng and sadangp’ae. Perhaps the strongest argument is provided by the numerous references to Buddhism in the lyrics of the former. The inclusion of the songs “Nollyang,” “Sagŏri,” and Song of the Frog in the repertoire of both troupes provides further evidence, as does the shared practice of performing standing and playing the sogo drum.81 There may have also been a connection between the song repertoires of the sant’aryŏngp’ae and (p.86) the sadangp’ae’s eventual successors, the namsadangp’ae, but Yi Ch’angbae strongly rejected the notion. When he asked holder of Namsadang Nam Unyong about his troupe’s “P’an yŏmbul,” the latter allegedly confirmed that there was no relation with that of Sant’aryŏng whatsoever.82

Since it continued to develop after it was officially recognized, the official Sant’aryŏng repertoire has come to differ considerably from that sung by troupes approximately a century ago. Not only has it now lost its connection with Buddhist practice, but its lyrics have changed, and as discussed later in this chapter, it is performed increasingly by women. Unfortunately, although commercial recordings of Sant’aryŏng have been produced since the early 1910s,83 the first complete sound recording of the official genre was not produced until 1993, so discussion of any changes made to the tradition during the decades prior can be based on lyrical transcriptions and images only.84 Compared to the lyrics of Kyŏnggi Sant’aryŏng as transcribed by Chang Sahun in his 1966 government report, the current ones are shorter and appear to have replaced a significant amount of vernacular with Sino-Korean terms. It is possible that some embellishment took place, prob ably at the hand of a highly respected singer such as Yi Ch’angbae, who had vast knowledge of Korean traditional song genres and held a job teaching kisaeng for many years.

Whereas the sequence called “P’an yŏmbul” was part of the repertoire of the early troupes, it dis appeared as a separate song sometime between 1916 and 1966. Han Manyŏng and Yi Pohyŏng believe that “P’an yŏmbul” is an old version of “Nollyang,” but lyrical transcriptions of the two songs differ considerably.85 Only a few phrases appear in both transcriptions, albeit in slightly altered form due in part to the application of different Korean orthographies. A comparison of a transcription of “P’an yŏmbul” published in Pak Sŭngyŏp’s 1916 collection Hyŏnhaeng ilsŏn chapka (Japanese and Korean Songs of Today) with a 1966 version of “Nollyang” as sung by Yi Ch’angbae—one of the first transcriptions of “Nollyang” published after the Korean War—reveals, among other things, that the first begins with a long introduction that is missing in the latter (which is almost identical to that by Hwang Yongju, translated above).86 The first verse of this introduction is similar to that of “Chin’guk myŏngsan” (The Famous Mountains Buttressing the Nation), a tan’ga (tan = short; ga = song) that was used as a warm-up song by p’ansori singers in the past.87 The verse also appears in a version of the Kyŏnggi folksong “Ch’angbu t’aryŏng” (ch’angbu = husband of a shaman), which is believed to have developed out of a shaman song: “From the lofty peaks of famous mountains buttressing the nation, one peak covered in yellow flowers stands out in the blue sky.”88

One characteristic found in both “P’an yŏmbul” and “Nollyang” is the mention of ch’ŏngnyong. In an earlier transcription of “P’an yŏmbul” that was first published in 1915 and is included in Chang’s CPC report,89 one finds the passage, (p.87) Ansan-ira chusan-ira chwau-rado ch’ŏngnyong,” which can be translated as “whether it’s Ansan or Chusan, Ch’ŏngnyong will be on either your left or right.” In this case, Ansan (Peaceful Mountain), Chusan (Main Mountain), and Ch’ŏngnyong (Blue Dragon) are geomantic concepts referring to the three mountains crucial to containing vital, positive energy within a specific site, for example, for burial or construction. According to geomantic practice, the four most important mountains are the tallest Main Mountain north of the favorable site, White Tiger (Paekho) to the west, Blue Dragon to the east, and Red Bird (Chujak)—made up of the two mountains Ansan and Chosan (Morning Mountain)—to the south.90 The association of ch’ŏngnyong with Ch’ŏngnyong Temple would have been made after “P’an yŏmbul” was replaced with “Nollyang.”91 The current version of the latter song includes the reference, but the oldest surviving textual transcription of the northwestern version of “Nollyang,” from 1914, does not; nor do transcriptions of Kyŏnggi versions from 1921 and 1922.92 A con temporary transcription by Hwang Yongju of the northwestern version of “Twissan t’aryŏng” includes a final, ninth verse that more strongly relates the current Sant’aryŏng genre to sadang.93 Since the verse does not appear in any other transcription, it is likely to have been composed by Hwang Yongju, presumably in an effort to support the historical legacy of his tradition: “The East Gate road in Ha-dong, in Kyŏngsang province, leads to Ch’ŏngnyong Temple in Kyŏnggi province, but in Hwanghae province many kŏsa and sadang gather in front of Sŏngjubŏp Temple on Mount Kuwŏl in Munhwa and night and day, day and night they learn how to dance and sing “Nollyang” to the beat of the sogo, suggesting they go on a boat trip to Chilp’odae by the five rivers, eh …”

Two Personal Stories

Chŏng Tŭngman

The last two active holders of Sant’aryŏng have been Hwang Yongju and his predecessor, the late Chŏng Tŭngman. Chŏng was born in the township of Sŏbinggo, in central Seoul’s Yongsan District, on October 27, 1907. Although Chŏng was born as the eleventh child, with four brothers and six sisters, his brothers all died early, leaving him as the only remaining son with the obligation to look after his parents in their old age. Chŏng showed a great passion for singing from early on. He disliked school and preferred going to places where folk music was performed. Since it was located at a point where traffic from five important branches of Seoul’s Han River converged, his hometown was an important trading place. It was usually crowded with sailors from different parts of the country, so many troupes of entertainers came to the town in the hope of earning good money both at the open markets and at the sailors’ frequent (p.88) parties.94 Chŏng fell in love with the music and often watched the performances while quietly moving his shoulders up and down to the beat. At other times, when wealthy young aristocrats (yangban) took boat rides accompanied by young girl entertainers, Chŏng would follow the boats by walking along the river shore to listen to the girls’ singing.95

When Chŏng turned fifteen, his family moved to the township of Amsa in Kwangju County, southeast of Seoul. But some five years later a major flood forced them to move back to the capital, to the township of Huam-dong.96 Around 1928, Chŏng took lessons in the p’yŏng (common) and chirŭm (yelling) types of shijo (sung poems) with the singer Mun Segŭn. After one year, when he felt he had nothing left to teach Chŏng, Mun introduced him to the well-known folksong singer Ch’oe Kyŏngshik.97 One day, when he and his new teacher were sitting in a public bath and Chŏng confessed that his voice could not reach the tones he heard his teacher sing, Ch’oe reacted with delight: “Well, now your ears have opened up! There are people who’ve studied for decades and still haven’t opened their ears.”98 Yet when Ch’oe told him that he had found a successor in him, Chŏng felt the responsibility weigh heavily on him. He therefore began studying with Kim T’aebong, a later holder of Sant’aryŏng. During this time, Kim introduced Chŏng to Yi Ch’angbae, who at the time was working as a civil servant conducting land surveys. Chŏng and Yi would eventually become close friends and fellow holders of Sant’aryŏng. After studying with Kim for one year, Chŏng took lessons with Cho Tŏkkyŏng, who had established himself as a performer of both Sant’aryŏng and the t’aep’yŏngso (conical oboe). It was Cho who taught Chŏng how to sing the Sant’aryŏng repertoire.

By the late 1920s, Chŏng had begun to lead a very busy life, selling fruit and vegetables at Namdaemun market during the days and spending most of his evenings singing folksongs. From the age of twenty, Chŏng also worked as a gardener, mostly for Japanese customers. Once he learned how to tend Japanese-style gardens, this provided him with an easy way to earn a living.99 To help look after his parents, Chŏng eventually moved back to his native township,100 where, at the age of twenty-five, he met So Wanjun, the lead singer of the Kwach’ŏn Panga Tari Troupe. So had moved to the township of Sŏbinggo when his son took a job working as a civil servant for the local railroads. He found employment teaching folksongs at a local community center for the elderly (kyŏngnodang), and it was there that he would help Chŏng hone his skills.101

Before liberation, Chŏng became a member of the Korean Research Committee for Song and Dance (Chosŏn kamu yŏn’guhoe), which had been established by Ch’oe Kyŏngshik for the purpose of bringing together singers of both the Kyŏnggi and the northwestern repertoires of Sant’aryŏng. The committee, which included well-known singers such as Ch’oe Chŏngshik and Pak Ch’unjae, acted as a society of friends rather than an agency, as it did not offer performances (p.89) or teach up-and-coming singers.102 Shortly after the end of the Pacific War, Chŏng joined the newly established Korean Traditional Music Entertainment Company (Kugak yŏnyesa). Because it included noted folksong singers such as Yi Ŭn’gwan and Chang Sop’al, the troupe was fairly successful and was frequently broadcast on the radio. As a result, Chŏng’s income from singing increased considerably. While the monthly salary of singers in most other troupes was approximately 30,000 wŏn, equivalent to a little below today’s minimum wage, Chŏng was paid almost twice as much.103 He was never, however, able to rely on his income from singing and was forced to continue to take gardening jobs until he was in his fifties.104

Despite the relative popularity of Sant’aryŏng during the colonial period, the status of the performers remained low. Chŏng Tŭngman said, “Even though I studied Sant’aryŏng, I didn’t really want to. In those days, people who performed shijo or kasa [narrative songs] were given the honorable title ‘Sir’ and they were invited to sing by the aristocracy [yangban], but those who sang Sant’aryŏng were called ‘balladeers’ [t’aryŏngkkun] and were treated with contempt.”105 Chang Sahun quotes the noted p’ansori singer Shin Ŭnhyu as saying that before the Korean War, p’ansori singers avoided singing songs from the Sant’aryŏng repertoire on the radio because they were considered to be below their status. He notes that the low status of the sadangp’ae is reflected in the explicit lyrics of some of the songs.106

When the Korean War broke out, the Traditional Music Entertainment Company fell apart. For a period of approximately four years, Chŏng lived in the township of Yanghwa, in south Ch’ungch’ŏng province, from where he commuted to the city of Kongju to sell fish. When he moved back to Seoul not long after the war, Chŏng joined Yi Ch’angbae’s private school, the Korean Institute of Traditional Vocal Music (Ch’ŏnggu kojŏn sŏngak hagwŏn), which had moved from one of Seoul’s central neighborhoods, Tonŭi-dong, to another, Kyŏnji-dong, where it had originally been located. Lessons included Sant’aryŏng and Kyŏnggi minyo, and they were offered free of charge. Yi had taken over teaching from another later holder of Sant’aryŏng, Chang Haksŏn, immediately after the Korean War. Although Yi managed to complete his comprehensive work on traditional Korean song styles, A Compendium of Vocal Music in Korea (Han’guk kach’ang taegye) in 1976, his physical condition was weak. Chŏng ended up doing all the teaching, from the late 1960s onward, not long before he was appointed holder of Sant’aryŏng.107

Some time after his appointment in 1968, Chŏng re-established the Korean Folksong Research Society (Han’guk minyo yŏn’guhoe), an organization that under the management of Wŏn Ch’unghŭi set out to propagate the many folksongs passed on in Kyŏnggi province apart from chapka.108 An earlier organization by the same name had existed since 1962 and is noted for having organized a folksong festival at the National Theater in March 1967.109 It is possible that Wŏn’s lack of experience prompted noted singer An Pich’wi to once again (p.90) re-establish the organization only a year later. She assumed the position of director, with Kim Ch’ŏnhŭng as a permanent advisory member.110 Since Kim was a member of the CPC, he may have had a hand in the relatively early recognition of Sant’aryŏng as IICP. Although it lacked sponsors for large-scale projects, it managed to organize major annual events such as Kugag-ŭi hyanggi (The Fragrance of Traditional Korean Music), Minyo paegilchang (Folksong Composition Contest), and Ridŭm ’81 (Rhythm ’81). Although the activities came to a stop in 1979, An’s senior students re-established the organization once again in 2006 and it remains active today.111

Chŏng spent much of his time teaching special scholarship students, including the current holders Ch’oe Ch’angnam and Hwang Yongju. He established the Society for the Study and Preservation of Standing Mountain Songs (Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng yŏn’gu pojonhoe) on the fifth floor of the Hansŏng building just north of Chongno 3-ga, in Myo-dong, and was able to rely considerably on Yi Ch’angbae for help with management and paying bills.112 Chŏng meanwhile became the director and departmental chairman of the Society for Korean Traditional Music (Han’guk kugak hyŏphoe), an organization consisting mainly of folk musicians, including CPC members Pak Hŏnbong and Kim Ch’ŏnhŭng, as well as Yi Ch’angbae and An Pich’wi.113

Chŏng Tŭngman died on October 30, 1992, leaving behind his wife, Ch’oe Pobae, two daughters, and a son. A few months earlier, on July 1, his students Ch’oe Ch’angnam (b. 1935) and Hwang Yongju (b. 1937) were appointed to replace him. Although Ch’oe was two years senior to Hwang and had been appointed future holder (poyuja hubo) a year prior to his peer, Hwang was appointed holder first because he concentrated on singing Sant’aryŏng. Not long before his death, Chŏng explained his preference for Hwang as holder: “I hope my “assistant teacher,” Hwang Yongju, will be appointed soon, before I die. It seems that only then the songs will be transmitted. Actually, “future holder” Ch’oe Ch’angnam may be well known because of his many appearances on radio stations, but since he emphasizes only the Kyŏnggi minyo [genre] he neglects Sant’aryŏng. However much talent you have, the cultural property only has value if you know how to teach students.”114

Hwang Yongju

Hwang Yongju was born in Changgil-dong’s Songsŏlli, in Kongju City, south Ch’ungch’ŏng province, on December 3, 1937. Hwang recalls that when he was seven years old, his family moved to Ch’uksalli, Kŭmnam-myŏn, in nearby Yŏn’gi County. He lived there until he was twenty years old and during this period he attended Yŏngmyŏng High School.115 When he was twenty-three years old, Hwang took lessons in shijo with Yi Chuhwan at the National Gugak (p.91) Center in Seoul. After one week, however, on October 14, 1960, he moved to Yi Ch’angbae’s institute. While continuing his day job, he studied with Yi every night, enjoying private lessons over a period of eight months. For four hours at a time, Yi taught kasa, shijo, Sant’aryŏng, and other folksongs.116 Sometimes Yi also encouraged him to perform, but there were not many opportunities to do so:

There was no house where we could sing. And what is more, in our case, the seniors who had no levels left to study, as well as those who had learned a lot and were [very] active, performed at traditional music events a few times a year and also on the radio, but other than that there was nothing. In addition, during the course, the teacher would perform on the radio a couple of times a year, but there was little opportunity to go and watch it, or [to] try singing, you see. To sing as often as we do nowadays was impossible then. That’s because, at the time, the situation in Korea wasn’t as globalized as it is now. But it was fixed like this after the Pacific War and before and after the Korean War, and because foreign culture came in, it was a period during which the Korean culture was forgotten for a moment. The people were like that and they were concerned with foreign culture. During that period, therefore, traditional music performers didn’t get on the radio or things like that, just like now, and although they did perform, there weren’t many traditional music performances.117

According to Hwang, opportunities for folk singers to perform on stage generally came after the introduction of the Cultural Properties Protection Law in 1962. Indeed, in the 1970s, soon after the first holders of Sant’aryŏng were appointed, senior Sant’aryŏng singers began to be regularly asked to perform on television and even overseas.118

Having graduated from Yi Ch’angbae’s institute in February 1965,119 in 1968 Hwang set up the Institute of Korean Folk Artistry (Taehan minsok yesul hagwŏn) on the premises of the Society for the Study and Preservation of Standing Mountain Songs. In 1982, Hwang renamed it the Society for the Preservation of Sant’aryŏng.120 Because the number of students steadily increased, the single large room and small adjacent office eventually became too small to be shared by both the institute and the society. Despite Hwang’s good health, the lack of an elevator made it difficult for him to easily reach the premises. Around the turn of the millennium, therefore, Hwang moved his preservation society to the Seoul Training Center for Important Intangible Cultural Properties (Seoul chungyo muhyŏng munhwajae chŏnsu hoegwan) in Samsŏng-dong, in Kangnam District, which offers much more practice space as well as facilities on the (p.92)

Masculinity in Demise and

Hwang Yongju teaching at his institute in Myo-dong, on December 14, 2015.

ground floor. In 2015, however, Hwang relocated back to Myo-dong, to the fourth floor of a building alongside Tonhwamun Road.

Today, students join the society to learn all kinds of folksongs. Hwang used to teach five days a week, but he has had to cut back due to his old age. In 1993, Hwang had approximately twenty students, including four female special scholarship students—Paek Aejin (b. 1954), Hong Yŏnsun (b. 1955), Yŏm Kyŏngsuk (b. 1969), and Kang Migyŏng (b. 1967). In 2009, holder-elect Ch’oe Ch’angnam (b. 1935) was also appointed holder. But while his assistant teachers used to be all male, they now include apart from Pak T’aeyŏ (b. 1924), Yŏm Ch’angsun (b. 1945) and Pang Yŏnggi (b. 1958), the women Ch’oe Sukhŭi and Yi Kŏnja (b. 1960).121 The number of students has almost tripled, but in all classes, across generations, female students far outnumber their male counter parts.122

Changes in the Status Quo

One of the genre’s most striking features is the uniformity of the performances in song, movement, and appearance. Even so, the actual dress of Sant’aryŏng singers has changed considerably since the 1970s. A picture of a formal performance from 1976 shows the lead singers with “normal” hairstyles and wearing plain white folk costumes, while in the back singers can be seen wearing what (p.93) are presumably silk waistcoats.123 Pictures published from 1984 until the late 1990s, however, show all singers wearing blue silk waistcoats.124 If singers performed in a style faithful to the genre’s origin—the itinerant entertainment troupes at the end of the Chosŏn dynasty—then silk waistcoats ought not to be worn, because only aristocrats had traditionally worn the fabric.125 Because of this, Yi Pohyŏng did not approve of the shirts,126 but he and Han Manyŏng point out that a p’ansori text written down by Shin Chaehyo, includes a passage on sadangp’ae in which the sadang as by some miracle come out of a gourd with their hair covered by “purple silken” towels. And in a small study of the sadang first published in 1936, Paek Hwarang speaks of “silk in five bright colors.” Although the former story is fantasy, and the latter unsubstantiated, it is likely that sadang wore brightly colored pieces of cloth in order to stand out from the crowd and add color to their performances.127

In the 1970s and 1980s, two other attributes were added to the formal costume of male Sant’aryŏng singers. Those surrounding the holders of the genre began to tie their hair up in a knot, around which they tied a version of the traditional hair band made of horse hair called the manggŏn.128 The use of the hairband is curious, as there are no signs of it ever having been used by any past itinerant entertainment troupe. Since the 1970s, straw sandals (ch’ohye) have become another new addition, presumably in an effort to return to a more traditional costume. The image on the cover of this book shows the Tchanji Troupe from Seoul performing in leather shoes in May 1938. Such footwear is likely to have been considered a luxury and regarded as an improvement, but its use in performances would have been uncommon. Similarly, between the 1970s and 1990s, many folk musicians wore white sneakers, even at National Folk Arts Contests. Although this may have been a purely financial matter at first (sneakers are not expensive), it is possible that the shoes were considered a style improvement. Straw sandals, on the other hand, may not be comfortable in the municipal areas where Sant’aryŏng are now mostly performed, though they are well suited for rural, unpaved terrain.

The drive toward uniformity also led to the temporary exclusion of female singers from formal performances, resulting in a more masculine overall sound.129 Although a female singer appears in Yi Ch’angbae’s 1976 A Compendium of Vocal Music in Korea,130 from then until the late 1990s female singers were absent in all formal pictures of the official group of Sant’aryŏng performers, despite the fact that their number had grown considerably during that time. The particular attraction of Sant’aryŏng to the many women who have taken up studying the genre in recent decades lies, aside from the social, performance and musical aspects, in the practical and social implications of their involvement. Unlike some other genres of traditional performing arts, Sant’aryŏng is based in the center of Seoul and it is not strongly associated with Buddhist or (p.94) shamanistic practices. Participation therefore does not require too much free time, and does not contradict Christian beliefs.131

The number of female students now exceeds that of male students, making the Sant’aryŏng genre once again appear “female.”132 This phenomenon has occurred in many other forms of folk art too, including Kyŏnggi minyo and Sŏdo sori, and as discussed in chapter 2 derives in most cases from the Confucian pressure on men to support their family; folk music rarely guarantees a sufficient income so the majority of those involved are amateur women.133 Although studies on Sant’aryŏng acknowledge that the genre’s origin is both female and male, Im Tonggwŏn was nevertheless unhappy with the development:

Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng, like nongak, has always been something that men do, not women; even nongak is nowadays dominated by women. And even masked dance dramas, which were things that men did, not women, is now performed by a large number of female university students, so there is no proper relation with the transmission of culture. We have in such cases never appointed women as in’gan munhwajae [human cultural properties]. We look for things that are practiced in their original forms, the old ways, unchanged. Yet, this—let’s call it the “exchange of roles” nowadays …—this is now all changed and Korean women are now boldly getting into what men should do. They go out playing the hourglass drum and the puk [barrel drum], don’t they? We cannot change that situation, but we don’t appoint them as human cultural properties.134

A con temporary female performance of Sant’aryŏng is certainly different from a male one from a few decades ago. Until the mid-1990s, official performances of Sant’aryŏng were carried out mostly by men, who lay great emphasis on the dynamics of their singing and drumming and on rousing their audience. Because the volume would go up considerably at times, the singers’ voices often ended up sounding raw and emotional toward the end of the performance. But there was a lot of humor: the singers contorted their faces during the solo parts and expressed much delight during the riotous drumming climaxes, when they seemed determined to finally break the skins of their handheld drums, often with mischievous looks on their faces. They would hold their drums in their left hand in such a way that it seemed like an anvil they were hammering a hot sword on.135 The groups that have since represented the Sant’aryŏng tradition, on the other hand, focus on the elegance of the performance. A group of mostly women now stand dressed in elegant hanbok, swaying softly left and right, with composed facial expressions and their hair tied back with a long hairpin. Although their voices are powerful, there is less depth in their voices, and rather than on the dynamics of their music, the emphasis lies on the melody of the (p.95) songs and the spectacle of the brightly colored line-up. It is nevertheless unlikely that many people will recognize the changes, or even care. At the public performances of Sant’aryŏng I attended in the early to mid-1990s, the average age of the audience was well above sixty. Younger generations will grow up with the new version of this tradition and become accustomed to the new standard.

Sedentary Entertainment: Kyŏnggi minyo

The genre of Kyŏnggi minyo (Folksongs from Kyŏnggi Province), which usually involves one or two women performing seated on a stage floor dressed in a standard hanbok, has arguably been institutionalized the longest of all folksong traditions. When in the late nineteenth century many professional folk arts began to converge in Seoul, folksongs from Kyŏnggi province and the northwestern Hwanghae and P’yŏngan provinces were turned into professional art forms suited to the growing number of indoor stages. A large number of singers came from male singing groups, while young women were trained, by men, at institutes for hired female entertainment. Because the genre of Kyŏnggi minyo was already recognized as a set repertoire by the turn of the century, it became standardized long before the IICP system was established. Even so, during the first few decades of the colonial period, sound recording technology and radio broadcasting influenced the style of the genre and the status of its singers, allowing some to become house hold names despite being from working-class or lower middle-class backgrounds. Although these representatives were both male and female, in the 1940s and 1950s a relatively greater number of male singers fell away from the entertainment scene. Whether this was because they had died during warfare, had ended up on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone, or had chosen a different occupation for their livelihood, the result left more opportunities for female performers. The shift in gender representation in Kyŏnggi minyo thus set in before the genre became an IICP, but it was consolidated by the subsequent designation of only female holders for the genre in 1975.

Unlike Sant’aryŏng and Sŏdo sori, the Kyŏnggi minyo genre is not only transmitted by holders and their students but also by a fair number of trained singers in and around the capital with whom they are only loosely associated. During the colonial period, record companies and radio stations helped create recognizable, set repertoires. Kyŏnggi minyo began to include popular t’ongsok songs from across the country, which led to a degree of diffusion of regional characteristics into the polished songs from the capital.136 The influence of professionalized t’ongsok songs on local (t’osok) songs was equally significant, though it is impossible to determine its exact extent. Beginning in the early twentieth (p.96) century, folksong recordings increasingly featured singers from the capital, and so the Kyŏnggi style undoubtedly left its mark on the style of folksongs outside the province. Many songs from Kyŏnggi province have become interchangeable with the professionalized t’ongsok minyo, including the well-known songs “Arirang,” “Ch’angbu t’aryŏng,” and “Sach’ŏlga” (Song of the Four Seasons). Like other Kyŏnggi folksongs, they exhibit the homogenizing effect that resulted from the mingling of myriad folk music styles in the city, which in general entailed a loss of regional vocabulary, a faster and less complex rhythm, and a lighter vibrato.

It is possible that the negative connotation of chap (= miscellaneous) in chapka (see chapter 2) led the government to settle for the rather broad, existing term, Kyŏnggi minyo, to signify the genre of refined folksongs from Kyŏnggi province. Another reason may be that the government did not expect to designate another major genre of folksongs from the province. Kyŏnggi minyo could, after all, be expected to comprise all songs sung in the province of the capital, including, for example, unpolished (t’osok) local songs, the polished (t’ongsok) folksongs from other provinces that were introduced to Seoul by itinerant entertainers, and the lighthearted hwimori (fast) chapka (chap = miscellaneous, ka = song). Officially, however, the term Kyŏnggi minyo came to define only the twelve refined folksongs, known as shibi (twelve) chapka or kin (long) chapka. The songs, which resemble sung poetry and use a considerable number of Sino-Korean words, are sometimes categorized as chwach’ang because they are commonly sung while seated.137

The Kyŏnggi repertoire of shibi chapka can be further subdivided into a core of eight (p’al) chapka and four chapchapka (miscellaneous chapka). In the past, around the early eighteenth century, performances tended to focus on the first eight. Holder Muk Kyewŏl recalls that when she was young, she only heard the term p’al chapka, not shibi chapka.138 In both music and lyrics, these eight songs are considered more graceful than the remaining chapchapka, which are likely to have been composed later, at the end of the nineteenth century. These later songs were presumably added to reach a total repertoire of twelve songs, which corresponded with the number of songs in the p’ansori and kasa genres, with which the folksongs have much in common musically and lyrically.139 The lyrics of five of the shibi chapka, for example, are based on the story of the p’ansori piece Ch’unhyangga (Song of Ch’unhyang).

The eight core songs of the Kyŏnggi genre are “Yusan’ga” (Picnic Song), a song comparing the beauty of a number of Korean mountains and streams with scenic spots in China; “Chŏkpyŏkka” (Song of the Red Cliff), a song depicting a scene from the popular Chinese war novel Samgukchi yŏnŭi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) in which the defeated Cho Cho (Chin. Cao Cao) begs Kwan U (Chin. Guan Yu) for his life; “Chebiga” (Swallow Song), a song describing (p.97) the scene from the p’ansori piece Hŭngboga (Song of Hŭngbo) in which Nolbu tries to find a swallow; “Chipchangga” (Grabbing the Stick Song), a song from Ch’unhyangga about the beating of Ch’unhyang as she is punished for refusing to bend to the wishes of the corrupt magistrate; “So [short] Ch’unhyangga,” a song relating the scene in which Ch’unhyang meets Yi Toryŏng and describes the surroundings of Ch’unhyang’s house; “Hyŏngjangga” (Song of the Torturing Stick), describing Ch’unhyang’s imprisonment; “P’yŏngyangga” (Song of Pyongyang), a song recounting how a local playboy tries to spend the night with Wŏlsŏn, a kisaeng from Pyongyang; and “Sŏnyuga” (Boating Song), a song about the joy of boat trips.

In comparison to Sant’aryŏng, the lyrics of Kyŏnggi minyo are more melancholic and sorrowful, though they retain some humor. Consider, for example, Yi Ch’angbae’s transcription of “Chebiga”:

Deep inside the mountains, an old tiger plays with a fat bitch by biting it and letting it go.

Like falling leaves in a storm, floating through the blue sky.

While the sun sets abruptly behind the hills in the West, the moon rises above the peaks in the East. The wild geese fly past high in the sky, honking.

I am going to net a swallow, I am going to net a swallow. I go out with the net that Fu Xi140 tied thrown over my shoulders. I go to Mount Mangdang, uiyŏ.. ŏ.. ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-igo, hey, you swallow, where are you flying off to?

They kick away the white clouds and defy the black clouds flying off high up in the sky, uiyŏ.. ŏ.. ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-ŏ-igo, why are you flying away? Come, all of you, flutter to my house.

Thinking it’s a swallow I net an oriole sitting on a willow.

Aha i-ei ehei eheya ne, where do you go? At midnight, when the moon that stands in the center of the sky is bright, but the sad sound of the common cuckoo can be heard, which lover will come for me?

In spring, all the birds that fly in the dense woods form pairs and they play together and sing to each other in harmony flying off and on.

The sky is full with the parrot that speaks well, the crane that dances well and the beautifully marked peacock. Flutter, flutter, flutter, the ruddy kingfisher, the cuckoo and the cicadas [all] come.

Wild geese come fluttering, goldfinches come tingling, they all come, except for the swallows; where have they all flown off to?141

The remaining four chapchapka are “Talkŏri” (Monthly Matters), a song about the special characteristics of each of the twelve months; “Shipchangga” (Song of Ten Sticks), another song depicting the scene in which Ch’unhyang is beaten; “Pangmulga” (Song of Fancy Goods), in which women’s merchandise items are used one by one as metaphors to express the sorrow felt by a married woman left behind; and “Ch’urin’ga” (Boating Song), a song with little narrative content (p.98) but in which the initial part derives from the farewell scene of Ch’unhyangga. These four songs have all appeared on recordings since the late 1920s, performed by singers such as Song Man’gap, Cho Moran, Pak Puyong, and O T’aesŏk, but they constitute only 15 percent of the total number of chapka recordings from the colonial period, suggesting they were less popular than the eight core songs of the Kyŏnggi genre.142

Unlike the shibi chapka, the hwimori chapka are relatively short and comical. Although they are not part of the official repertoire, holders of Kyŏnggi minyo may sing one or two hwimori chapka depending on the occasion. These chapka comprise approximately ten songs, including “Kombo t’aryŏng” (Song of the Pockmarked One), “Pawi t’aryŏng” (Song of the Rock), “Saengmae chaba” (Catching a Falcon), and “Yukch’irwŏl hŭrin nal” (Cloudy Days in June and July). Although the songs are believed to originate from sasŏl shijo—narrative, sung poems set to a four-tone scale and a five-beat rhythmic pattern—their singing style has come to resemble that of the shibi chapka, though they follow a slightly faster (12/8) three-beat pattern and are usually performed standing.143 Both the shibi chapka and hwimori chapka are marked by relatively fast rhythmic patterns, many accented notes, and somewhat hasty vibration. They are sung with much power, but the relatively fast overall tempo precludes strong emotional expression.144 Singers are virtually motionless when they perform sitting down, and they merely sway gently left and right when standing.

The shibi chapka are all sung in a 6/4 rhythmic pattern called todŭri. Whereas “Chebiga” and “Hyŏngjangga” double in pace at the start, and “Talkŏri” does so at the end, “Chipchangga” is sung at a double pace throughout.145 Unlike that of Sŏdo chapka, the meter of Kyŏnggi chapka is set. The melodic style of most songs is similar to that of the northwestern region, but “Sŏnyuga,” “P’yŏngyangga,” “Talkŏri,” and “Ch’urin’ga” follow a pentatonic system common to the Seoul region. Because the songs are sung in the vernacular, unlike the other wise relatively similar kasa, they are more direct in their expression of emotions. Hwang Yongju notes that although the genre’s rhythmic structure and singing style resemble those of kasa, the two genres are easily distinguished.146 Kasa are sung much slower than Kyŏnggi chapka, with little vocal ornamentation except for a slow if slightly crescendo vibration at the end of most notes. The notes of Kyŏnggi chapka, on the other hand, are sung with vibration from beginning to end, and because the songs are sung much faster, the lyrics can be easily understood. Singers of either genre may be accompanied by a drummer, but the role of the latter is smaller in the case of kasa.

During the first few decades of the twentieth century, the professional repertoire of Folksongs from Kyŏnggi Province came to include not only chapka but also a number of t’ongsok minyo from other regions in Korea. Most of the t’ongsok songs were set to orchestral accompaniment and arranged to suit short (p.99) three-to four-minute time slots, ideal for gramophone records and radio broadcasts. The resulting shin minyo came to share several musical characteristics with Kyŏnggi chapka, which long retained their melody, singing style, and rhythmic cycles: an emphasis on lyricism at the expense of emotion in what may, in relative terms, be seen as a fast, straightforward singing style in which the quality and length of vibrato are sacrificed in order to keep the pace of the ornamented melodies.147 Singers use a combination of the chest, head, and falsetto registers, occasionally quickly jumping from one to the other within phrases. The vibrato is most noticeable at the end of each phrase, but during singing quick rhythmic accents at times resemble glottal-stop-like acciaccatura. The late holder of Sant’aryŏng, Chŏng Tŭngman, commented on the difficulty of singing Kyŏnggi folksongs: “They say that Kyŏnggi songs are easier than p’ansori, but that’s not true. With p’ansori there is room to breathe, but there is none with Kyŏnggi songs. That’s why, in the end, they cannot sing solo, but they have to sing in chorus. In order to sing Kyŏnggi songs, you have to know how to take a ‘secret breath.’ Even among famous Kyŏnggi singers, there’s hardly anyone who can sing solo.”148

As with other folksongs, the ideal vocal timbre is a husky one. Yi Ŭnju, holder of Kyŏnggi minyo, told me, “The way to get a hoarse sound is not simply to compress your voice [mog-ŭl tchalpke hada], but to pull your voice up [mog-ŭl ppopta], so it’s extremely difficult.”149 Below I provide a transcription of the first phrase of “Yusan’ga” by Muk Kyewŏl from 1997 that shows the fast vibratos and long, sustained notes:150

Masculinity in Demise and

Hwaran ch’unsŏng-hago manhwa pangch’ang-ira ttae chot’a pŏt[/n]nim ne-ya sanch’ŏn kyŏnggae-rŭl kugyŏng-ŭl kase (With flowers blossoming vibrantly and all things growing lushly, this is the perfect time. My dear, let’s go enjoy the sight of the mountains and streams).

Having worked on more than a few hundred folksong records, singer Pak Ch’unjae (1881–1950) was one of the most prolific recording artists of the colonial period. On an early standard-play (SP) recording of the song from 1911,151 Pak sings the very same lyrics, but he follows a tempo that is almost double (p.100) overall. The much higher pace may account for the fairly basic tonal ornamentation and lack of grace notes.152 Another difference is that in Pak’s version the main pitch drops half a tone from F to E in the last few measures (see below). The greater speed is likely to have been caused by the very limited recording time. SP recordings generally provided no more than three-and-a-half minutes of playing time per side. What is more, the recording technology did not allow small nuances nor great dynamic shifts, which left most recordings from this time sounding flat by today’s standards:153

Masculinity in Demise and

The first phrase of “Yusan’ga” on Pak Ch’unjae’s 1911 recording has virtually identical lyrics, but much less ornamentation.

History of the Genre

The exact origin of the Kyŏnggi chapka repertoire is unclear, but the genre is believed to have developed and been passed on from around the early 1800s by a succession of four prominent male singers, starting with Ch’u Kyoshin, a talented kagok (lyric songs) singer born in 1814. His student Cho Kijun (1835–1900), a renowned singer of both kagok and kasa, in turn taught Pak Ch’un’gyŏng (1850–1920?), who became a specialist of kasa, shijo, and chapka, and instructed, among others, Yu Kaedong and Pak Ch’unjae. Pak Ch’un’gyŏng was a member of the successful male singing group Sagyech’uk, which was presumably named after the hometown of its main members, which stretched from today’s Mallidong to Ch’ŏngp’a-dong just south of Seoul Station. The group performed at marketplaces and town squares, while also regularly meeting in a so-called kip’ŭn sarang to perform, teach, and practice.154

A kip’ŭn sarang (kip’ŭn = deep, sarang = reception room for men), sometimes referred to as an umjip (dugout), was a hole roughly three by nine meters wide and one-and-a-half to two meters deep, dug into the side of a field with a simple roof placed over it.155 The dugout would have looked poor from the outside (p.101) but would have been nicely decorated on the inside, usually with wall paper, a folding screen, a table, and basic furniture.156 When farming work became impossible because of the winter cold, occasionally as many as thirty commoners, including handicraft traders and farmers, comprising both amateur and semi-professional singers, would gather in tents like this to enjoy folksongs, kasa and shijo. The songs they sang in the kip’ŭn sarang were sometimes referred to as pangan sori (room songs).157 Before they dis appeared in the 1950s, there were many of these hangouts scattered around Seoul, in townships such as It’aewŏn, Sŏbinggo, Wangshimni, Majang, Ch’ŏngp’a, Ŭngbong, and Ttuksŏm.158 In summer, folk music enthusiasts would also regularly gather to sing and play music in the naturally air-conditioned summer version of the kip’ŭn sarang, the kongch’ŏng (public posts). The kongch’ŏng looked like the lookouts that can still be found in farming fields today. They had a roof over an elevated wooden floor built on pillars a few feet above the ground, and like the kip’ŭn sarang, they were often furnished with chairs and floor mats.159

Both the kip’ŭn sarang and the kongch’ŏng served primarily as practicing and performing spaces for male students. At the end of the nineteenth century, most female singers of Kyŏnggi chapka and other folksongs from the region were trained at professional kisaeng schools. For a long time three classes of kisaeng had existed: members of the first (ilp’ae) belonged to a government office, and although a number of them may have served as courtesans, they studied dance, the refined arts of the aristocracy (yangban) known as p’ungnyu, and kagok as their sole vocal art. Some of the women in this class studied medicine as well, so they could treat women at the palace. The performers were either trained at government institutions called ch’ang hagwŏn (singing institutes) or at provincial government offices at small, local posts called kyobangch’ŏng (deputy offices).160 The second class (ip’ae) of entertainment girls consisted of retired first-class kisaeng who usually ended up as concubines or ran their own entertainment establishment, while the third class (samp’ae) comprised working-class hostesses who sold wine, sang folksongs, and occasionally performed sexual services.161

Businesses dealing in prostitution and young female entertainment would persist well into the twentieth century, but the legal foundations of the long-existing class distinction between the aristocracy and commoners, including kisaeng, were abolished in the mid-1890s as part of the major social and political changes made to the Korean government known as the Kabo Reform.162 Reputations and traditional notions of class would, however, long persist, leaving the social status of those at the lower and upper echelons of the social hierarchy largely unchanged. Even a 1908 police ordinance abolishing the distinction between the various classes of female entertainers did little to ameliorate the women’s position, especially when in March 1909 it was decided that like (p.102) prostitutes, kisaeng now also had to be examined by a designated doctor each month to determine whether they had any contagious illness.163 Over the following years, the Japanese nevertheless implemented social reforms that sought to bring an end to the low status of certain social groups, such as Buddhist monks, butchers, and entertainers.164 The rising market economy they helped usher in meanwhile served to expand the middle class and change social markers, enabling those considered working class to buy items that symbolized a degree of sophistication not previously associated with their station.165 Although popular kisaeng may have had some power in the form of social capital, as they appeared on recordings and the radio, the majority remained firmly locked in the lower echelons of society.166 The burgeoning Japanese tourism industry may have focused on the girls’ artistic talents, but it made little attempt to hide their association with sex work. Widespread contempt, social isolation, and the duty to perform sexual services drove many to suicide or, like the celebrated p’ansori singers Yi Hwajungsŏn (1898–1943) and Pak Nokchu (1906–1979), drug abuse.167

The Japanese closure of the state schools for kisaeng in the early 1910s created possibilities for private entrepreneurs, some of whom had already established schools for kisaeng in and around Seoul and Pyongyang.168 While the smaller establishments in the countryside would only engage a handful of girls, including former prostitutes, those in central Seoul took on as many as 180 girls, including former first-class kisaeng. Most of the girls came from poor families, a small, but notable percentage of which were shaman house holds.169 While the students and teachers were all Korean, management of the schools would eventually come to include a number of Japanese. The girls, who were mostly in their mid-to late teens, were trained over a period of three years in a variety of skills. Although the range of skills covered differed between schools, they included calligraphy, kasa, shijo, kagok, Kyŏnggi minyo, traditional Korean instruments, Japanese and Western dance, as well as etiquette and the Japanese language. As part of etiquette, the girls were taught how to walk and sit, and how to greet and engage in conversation with their male clientele.170

The establishments outside Seoul were mostly known as chohap (associations). From 1914 onwards, however, those in Seoul began to adopt the term kwŏnbŏn (Jap. kenban), the Japanese equivalent of which was used for geisha agencies.171 In Seoul, one of the first schools was the Ta-dong chohap (Ta-dong Association), which was established in February 1913 by Ha Kyuil (1867–1937). Located in Seoul’s central Ta-dong area, between Ŭlchiro 3-ga and Ch’ŏng-gyech’ŏn, the school trained many girls from the northwestern region, but it changed its name to Taejŏng [Jap. Taishō] kwŏnbŏn in 1919 when it set up a separate school for girls from Pyongyang called Taedong kwŏnbŏn, presumably named after the Taedong River that ran through their hometown. It was located nearby, in Sŏrin-dong, on the northern side of Ch’ŏnggyech’ŏn below Chongno (p.103) 5-ga.172 In 1923, three years before taking charge of teaching vocal art at the Court Music Office of the Yi Royal House hold, Ha renamed the original association Chosŏn (Korea) kwŏnbŏn and adopted all the students from the Kyŏnghwa kwŏnbŏn, which had been located in Shi-dong in the south of Seoul. It was at the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn that later holders An Pich’wi and Muk Kyewŏl, and nominee Kim Okshim, would eventually come to study Kyŏnggi chapka with Ch’oe Chŏngshik. Other schools in Seoul’s Central District included the Kwanggyo kwŏnbŏn—later renamed Hansŏng kwŏnbŏn173—in Mugyo-dong, where chapka were taught by a former student of Pak Ch’un’gyŏng and eventual holder of Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng, Yu Kaedong, and the Hannam yegi kwŏnbŏn (yegi = kisaeng), better known as simply Hannam kwŏnbŏn, in Kongp’yŏng-dong.174 They were joined by the Chongno kwŏnbŏn in Nagwŏn-dong, where chapka were taught by another of Pak Ch’un’gyŏng’s former students, Pak Ch’unjae. In 1940, the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn, Chongno kwŏnbŏn, and Hansŏng kwŏnbŏn merged to form the Samhwa kwŏnbŏn.175

The schools did not only provide professional training in a variety of skills, but also created possibilities for the girls to perform for the media. Although it is not clear exactly what it broadcast between 1924 and 1927, the year in which the Kyŏngsŏng Broadcast Corporation’s radio service went “live,” newspaper announcements show that at least from July 12 to September 23, 1926, it employed only kisaeng from Seoul’s main schools, primarily to sing folksongs.176 Due to the popularity of a number of kisaeng, the association with third-class kisaeng began to fade. Yet despite the fact that they had all been trained at one, the first generation of Kyŏnggi minyo holders remained reluctant to discuss their experiences with kisaeng organizations, and it is perhaps therefore left out of the CPC’s report.177 An Pich’wi, for example, referred to the stigma when she commented, “I know that in the past kwŏnbŏn were places where commoners and kisaeng [female entertainers] were trained, but that was not absolutely so. The study substance and atmosphere were more strict and diligent than at today’s art schools.”178

Three Personal Stories

An Pich’wi

An Pich’wi was the most celebrated of the first three holders of Kyŏnggi minyo. She was born the youngest of three siblings on March 21, 1926, in Hyoja-dong, in Seoul’s central Chongno District. Her parents had had two boys and four girls but decided to have one more child when they lost all of their daughters. Due to the ill fate of her sisters, her father, An Yŏngsu, named her Pokshik (blessed child).179 An first started to dream of singing and dancing professionally some (p.104) time after finishing Ch’ŏngun Primary School. Although she was not a very good student, her teachers recognized her talent for the performing arts. Her mother and grand mother were devout patrons of shamanism, and once every three years they invited a shaman (mudang) to their house to conduct a ceremony, even when there was no impending misfortune. An would watch the ritual day and night, and mimic the singing and dancing of the shaman. Using her father’s record player, she often listened to recordings of famous p’ansori singers such as Song Man’gap (1866–1939), Chŏng Chŏngyŏl (1876–1938), Yi Tongbaek (1867–1950), Yi Hwajungsŏn, and Pak Nokchu, as well as to recordings of Kyŏnggi minyo by professional singers such as Yi Chinhong (1892–?) and Yi Chinbong (1896–?).180

When An told her family about her plans to become a professional singer, her father and brothers were strongly opposed. Because her father was a merchant, the family was relatively well off. Singing folk music as a profession was associated with a low social status and with sex work, so those who could avoid it did so. She recalled her father being irate and her brothers pledging to commit suicide and saying she would bring shame on the house, but she was determined. The commotion that followed was so great that at some point An thought they were going to cut her throat. She finally fled the house and, together with a friend who also wanted to sing and dance, went to look for a homestay in the neighboring area of Ch’ŏngjin-dong. When An’s mother eventually found out where she was, she secretly provided her with clothes and money to pay for rent and tuition.181 Although even her landlady tried to persuade her to return home, An remained headstrong. She desperately wanted to sing, and pleaded for her help instead. The landlady then introduced her to Ha Kyuil, who persuaded An to join the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn, where he worked both as a teacher and superintendent. It was there that she would meet Muk Kyewŏl, one of An’s future co-holders of Kyŏnggi minyo.

An had to get up every morning at five o’clock to do vocal exercises before leaving her room to study with her teacher, who sometimes kept her busy until nine o’clock in the evening. It was Ha who nicknamed An “Pich’wi” (jade/kingfisher), a name he reportedly gave her because of her beauty. Most kisaeng, however, appear to have had nicknames, many of which, like Pich’wi, were common.182 Ha taught An several court dances as well as kagok and kasa, genres long popular with the aristocracy. Because she was much more interested in folk music, however, An began to take lessons in traditional dance with Han Sŏngjun, a leading authority on folk dance, and in the yanggŭm (dulcimer) with Kim Sangsun.183 In 1937, two years after An had joined his classes, Ha Kyuil died. His best pupil, Yi Pyŏngsŏng, took over the teaching of song and dance, but because no teachers at the school knew folk music, An decided to take evening lessons in kin chapka with Ch’oe Chŏngshik, a noted singer of folksongs from Kyŏnggi (p.105) and the northwestern provinces who would eventually take up a teaching position at the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn as well.184

When she had turned fourteen, Ch’oe introduced An to the professional folksong scene by taking her to a local kip’ŭn sarang. An recalls her first visit:

When I went there with my teacher and my seniors, old men had laid down fancy mattresses and set up a folding screen. They were sitting in a circle. We would sit up all night singing songs there. As for those men, they were people from Seoul who had a profound knowledge of folksongs. They were truly esteemed singers. I was put to the test in front of them. After bowing, I sat down neatly, and after I sang shijo with a male and a female tessitura, I sang kin chapka and chapchapka. They sat there listening motionlessly and then took a short break. They smoked cigarettes and after they had opened the window above to let out the smoke, they again sat down motionless. We just ate tangerines and raw eggs with salt, bit by bit, and sang with our backs straight up, unable to turn around.185

Eventually, the old men complimented her on her talent. Having passed this test at the kwŏnbŏn, An went through a proper initiation ceremony and became a member of the select group of professional folksong singers that frequented the kip’ŭn sarang.186 She would nevertheless continue to study with Ch’oe until she was approximately twenty-five years old.

In 1940, at the age of fifteen, An became a member of a traditional music group that performed court and folk dances across the country. In addition, she regularly performed for the Seoul Broadcasting Company (the present Korea Broadcasting System, or KBS).187 However, the Pacific War eventually put her career on hold. As warfare intensified, the number of work opportunities became significantly limited. The Japanese authorities forbade folk and popular entertainment and even ordered some of the folk musicians to work in the coal mines. Others, including An’s group, were forced to pay so-called sympathy visits (wimun) to the Japanese military, either in Korea or on tour in Japan.188 Because many of the songs had to be sung in Japanese, the experience was often demoralizing for the performers, but few if any were in a position to opt out.

After 1945, An began performing in a new group brought together by Shin Pulch’ul, a famous singer and stand-up comedian who was responsible for the lyrics of the popular trot “The Tear-soaked Tumen River.” Shin’s group offered a variety of performing arts, including folksongs, p’ansori, and dance, as well as a form of stand-up comedy called mandam or chaedam (lit. “witty chat”) that had strong roots in traditional folk performing art. An described Shin as “an ugly man with glasses, but incredibly talented,” and said he spent a lot of time in jail during the Japanese occupation because he made a habit of boldly (p.106) inserting patriotic comments in his comedy routine.189 Despite being employed, An’s financial situation remained poor, as she was often not paid for performances. On a few occasions she was even held hostage by a hotel manager because she was unable to pay her bill. It was around this time, at the age of nineteen, that An met Kang Kijun, a bank clerk. The two fell in love and married in the same year. Her husband supported her career, which meant she was able to carry on with it despite also mothering five children. When her husband died at the early age of thirty, she continued to sing while singlehandedly raising three sons and two daughters.

In the years following the Korean War, An took part in a traditional music program, the predecessor of the later national folksong singing competition, alongside noted singers such as Kim Sohŭi, Yi Ch’angbae, and Kim Okshim. It was not until 1959, however, that she was able to go overseas for the first time; she went as part of a tour of Japan and performed for audiences comprised mostly of overseas Koreans. An performed in the role of a kisaeng in a ch’anggŭk (traditional Korean opera) version of one of the p’ansori pieces, Ch’unhyangga, along-side, among others, the famous p’ansori singer Im Pangul, actress Pok Hyesuk, and actors Pak Chin and Ch’oe Sangdŏk. At home, throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, An Pich’wi dedicated much of her time to organizing folksong events in her role as director of the Korean Folksong Research Society.190

On July 12, 1975, An Pich’wi was appointed holder of Kyŏnggi minyo, along with her peers Muk Kyewŏl and Yi Ŭnju. An remembered that by the time she was appointed, the IICPs had acquired considerable status. She recalled that in 1964, when the Cultural Properties Management Office began announcing the first holders, many artists avoided being appointed:

In those days we lived under constant supervision and nobody wanted to be appointed because this meant extra supervision. … Back then, all the well-known singers of Sŏdo sori died without being appointed. Singers such as Paek Unsŏn, Chang Haksŏn, and Yi Pandohwa were excellent singers, but they died after nothing but hardship. You won’t find singers like that any more.191

An added that mere appointments would not guarantee the preservation of traditional music:

Nowadays, you can no longer go out at night to sing at some workplace or party. Although my income has decreased as a result, I think that it is a very good thing. I am not in favor of people who are called to some place to sing for a petty amount of money. The problem is that they [the CHA] just appoint cultural properties without there being any countermeasure. (p.107)

Masculinity in Demise and

Poster of the Korean Folksong Research Society (Han’guk minyo yŏn’guhoe) from around 1962 featuring An Pich’wi, “who has returned from Japan,” and Yi Ŭn’gwan, “who is heading off to Japan,” in the center. Shown also in second and third position from the top left are respectively Kim Okshim and Yi Ŭnju, and, from the top right, Yi Sohyang, the society’s director, and Muk Kyewŏl.

(Poster reproduced courtesy of the National Gugak Center.)

(p.108) Don’t they say that nowadays only those who are well dressed and attractive are suitable for appointment? Traditional music programs have been given the cold shoulder by the broadcasting stations. When you go to a national broadcasting station such as KBS and try to talk to them, they say that there’s no sponsor for such programs. How can a national broad-casting company that runs on account of our taxes say that it disregards traditional music because it has no sponsor?192

An Pich’wi remained active until the early 1990s, when she became terminally ill. In performance and in teaching she always sang the lyrics as they appeared in Yi Ch’angbae’s 1953 Song Compilation (Kayo chipsŏng). She noted that popular singers and teachers had a responsibility to immediately correct students’ “wrong” habits: “A number of popular Korean singers have hits by singing ‘Han obaengnyŏn,’ ‘Nodŭl kangbyŏn,’ ‘Sae t’aryŏng’ [Bird’s Song], or other folksongs, but somehow there should be supervision. Even when I myself teach students at university, not only do they pronounce sarang (love) as ssarang, but the melody is also very wrong. This has become fixed by habit and to change it is very difficult. We have to sing folksongs that have character.”193 Yi Ch’unhŭi (b. 1947) described her teacher as someone who focused much on decorum: “She always says that women have to behave like women and provide what women are meant to provide. She says that we have to know and follow what are the right and proper ways to dress and prepare food … and despite the fact that there are neither husband nor relatives in her house, the ceremony and formalities remain unchanged during meals. We students respect her for her discipline.”194 By 1995, An was no longer able to teach. Because her husband had died and all her children had moved to the United States, she lived alone until she passed away on January 3, 1997. Yi Ch’unhŭi and fellow future holder—now assistant teacher—Kim Hyeran (b. 1951) had regularly come to An’s house to study, and they helped look after her when she became ill. On November 11, 1997, Yi replaced An as holder.

Muk Kyewŏl

Muk Kyewŏl, one of An Pich’wi’s former classmates at the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn, was born as Yi Kyŏngok on November 18, 1921, in Kwanghŭi-dong, in central Seoul, across from where the Kyerim Theater used to be. Her father, Yi Yun’gu, made a modest living tying silk decorations. Muk was the second youngest of five daughters. She developed a passion for singing from the age of eleven while attending Pangsan Primary School. A singer who heard her voice went to Muk’s house to ask permission to teach her. When her father refused, the man was able to persuade Muk’s mother, and so, in 1931, to further her development as an (p.109) entertainer, Muk was allowed to move out of her home to live with a foster mother, a certain Ms. Yi, who owned a large house in Nagwŏn-dong just north of Chongno 2-ga.195

Ms. Yi was one of the special adoptive mothers (suyang ŏmŏni) for kisaeng, who advanced fees for the girls and housed them while they studied at a kwŏnbŏn. Until the early 1910s at least, many kisaeng also had a kibu (male partner/agent). The kibu, who was often a few years older, provided protection and often advanced tuition fees.196 The word kidungsŏbang (pimp) has been used to describe the role of the kibu, but although some kisaeng performed sexual services, the kibu will have been able to protect them and others, including those whose primary role it was to provide musical entertainment, from having to perform any sexual act or being sexually assaulted. The role of the kibu could be compared to that of the kŏsa of sadang described earlier in this chapter.

From the moment she moved in with her foster mom, Muk stopped going to school and contact with her real parents was practically cut off. Most kisaeng were given new names, and because Ms. Yi’s late husband had had the surname Muk, Yi Kyŏngok changed her name to Muk Kyewŏl. Muk first took lessons in shijo and chapka with Yi Kwangshik, who managed a small private singing school in the area. But when Muk found him to be a poor teacher, her foster mom told her not to go back and enrolled her in the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn. Although Muk expected to be taught kagok, her teacher Ha Kyuil found that her voice was better suited to chapka, and so she ended up studying with chapka specialist Chu Subong (1870–?). There were twenty to thirty students in her class, and because she had enrolled late, Muk was seated at the very back of the classroom; she and her teacher could barely see each other. Muk therefore left the school after less than a year. Her foster mom took her to teacher Kim Yunt’ae, who taught students privately and was able to give Muk extensive feedback. She also studied songsŏ—a genre of sung excerpts of prose, a particular piece of which each kwŏnbŏn considered obligatory—with Yi Munwŏn, an itinerant singer who sang in exchange for money and lodging.197 Another teacher with whom she studied for a while was Ch’oe Chŏngshik, a specialist in “new folksongs” who was renowned for the hits he had with his modern renditions of “P’ungdŭngga” (Great Harvest Song) and “Kŭmgangsan t’aryŏng” (Ballad of Mount Kŭmgang).198

By the time she turned sixteen, Muk was fast making a name for herself, performing at many public and private occasions, inside rich people’s homes and at kip’ŭn sarang, but she remained socially isolated. Muk passed on all her earnings to her foster mom, who was always suspicious that her protégée was holding back money and discouraged Muk from entertaining friends at home. When Muk turned twenty, she could no longer bear living with her foster mom and moved back to her parents’ home. A few years earlier, at the age of eighteen, she had made her first recordings of Western-style popular songs of the day, (p.110) kayo, for Victor Records. But although this signaled the start of a breakthrough, her career came to a virtual halt when she married a few years later, in 1942. Her husband, Kim Koin, a miner, had Muk stay at their home in Tonam-dong, in Seoul’s northern Sŏngbuk District, to look after their son and two daughters while he paid back the debt owed to Muk’s foster mom. When he lost his job aftera few years, the family—which included children from her husband’s previous marriage199—had to rely on Muk for their livelihood, and life became very difficult. Ryu Ŭiho records that Muk’s parents died before liberation,200 which suggests that Muk was unable to ask her parents for support and may have had to carry the additional burden of looking after them for some time. She eventually found work again singing for the Samhwa kwŏnbŏn. It was not a place where she could make a name for herself, but it did provide a more secure income and allowed her to send both her own children and those of her husband to school.201

The Korean War forced the family to move south, to Pusan, where Muk was eventually able to make a little bit of money singing. When the family returned to Seoul in May 1953, only the four outside walls of their house remained. By borrowing money from her sisters and taking any singing job she could find, Muk was able to support her family and little by little finance the reconstruction of their house. After 1957, when she was first invited to perform for KBS-TV, the family’s living conditions began to improve, but the prospect of paid work in folk music remained bleak at least for another decade. Even Muk’s appointment as holder in 1975 did not immediately provide much relief from financial strain. Because she had been told unofficially prior to her appointment that her performances at sixtieth birthday parties jeopardized her position as a candidate, Muk made up her mind not to continue such activities after her appointment, despite the fact that this implied a significant loss of income.202

Upon becoming a holder, Muk Kyewŏl selected two special scholarship students, Im Chŏngja (b. 1943, stage name Chŏngnan, then a future holder as well) and Ko Churang; one female assistant teacher, Chi Hwaja (1942–2001); and seven graduates, both male and female.203 One of Muk’s students, Yu Ch’ang (b. 1959, original name Yu Ŭiho), who was another of Hwang Yongju’s graduates for Sant’aryŏng, was appointed assistant teacher for Kyŏnggi minyo in 2001 and holder of Seoul City Intangible Cultural Property no. 41, songsŏ, in 2009.204 About teaching, Muk said:

I tell my students to study hard, but that’s all I do. When we were young, there were no books and we learned by just looking at our teacher’s lips. … We worked hard day and night, but nowadays people don’t work that hard. And even after you’ve become fairly comfortable with the notes after studying for a few years, you have to constantly touch it up and do your own thing by way of research. If you don’t, then you can only copy the (p.111) typical sounds. It’s like when you make diamonds and you must cut the stone and make it smoother to get a really nice ball [kong].205

According to Ryu Ŭiho, Muk, like her fellow holders, had trouble teaching her special scholarship students. This was for the most part because they had graduated from Yi Ch’angbae’s institute, which taught styles that differed musically from those of the three Kyŏnggi minyo holders.206 Although Kim Yŏngim (b. 1953) and Yu Ch’ang (b. 1959), the only male senior professionals of the genre, replaced Chi Hwaja in 2001, Kim’s position has remained fairly weak, which may be because she also studied with Yi Ch’angbae and thus lacked the full support of her teacher. In an article for OhmyNews, Kim Munsŏng compares Kim Yŏngim to singer Kim Okshim, described below, whose talent and accomplishments appear to have been ignored at the time the first three holders of Kyŏnggi minyo were appointed.207

Besides singing and teaching, Muk was chairman of the folksong committee of the Society for Korean Traditional Music, which in 1968 honored her with an award at the first National Contest for Korean Traditional Music (Chŏn’guk kugak kyŏngyŏn taehoe). In addition, she served as vice-chairman of the Korean Folksong Research Society.208 On September 16, 1995, Muk gave her last public performance,209 but she continued to teach at her institute, the Muk Kyewŏl Institute for the Preservation of Kyŏnggi Folksongs (Muk Kyewŏl Kyŏnggi sori pojonhoe), despite her deteriorating health. The institute was first located on the fifth floor of a building opposite Seoul’s central fire station and eventually moved to a small office on the second floor of a rundown building in Sŏdaemun District. It finally moved to the space used for teaching by her student Yu Ch’ang, in the basement of a small office building in Pongik-tong in Seoul’s central Chongno District. Because of her old age and frailty, Muk’s status was changed into that of honorary holder on April 20, 2005. She died approximately nine years later, on May 2, 2014.

Yi Ŭnju

Yi Ŭnju, the youngest of the first generation of holders of Kyŏnggi minyo, was born Yi Yullan in the township of Changhang in Yangju County, northwest of Seoul, on October 6, 1922.210 Yi said that when she went to primary school she already desperately wanted to study singing and she listened to records of famous singers as often as possible. Pak Kyŏngsu reports that because Yi’s father was a poor farmer, he decided to send her to a kwŏnbŏn at the age of eight;211 but Yi told me the decision to go to a kwŏnbŏn was her own and had been prompted by the lack of singing teachers in the area. Her mother took her to Seoul, where an acquaintance introduced them to Wŏn Kyŏngt’ae212 at the Chongno kwŏnbŏn. (p.112)

Masculinity in Demise and

Yi Ŭnju teaching at her home in Kwŏnnong-dong on July 8, 2013.

Yi would study for five years with Wŏn, learning chapka, shijo, and kasa. Wŏn was a very stern teacher and Yi recalls being beaten, sometimes to the point of bleeding. Pak reports that during those years Yi lived with a foster mother, like her peer Muk Kyewŏl, and that at the age of eleven she was already an aegi ki-saeng (aegi = child) who performed in front of customers; but Yi insisted that she was not a real kisaeng and only took private lessons.213

In her late teens, Yi moved to Taegu City, where for one year she was unable to find employment. She was encouraged to try composing instead, which shortly after liberation led her to create a revised version of the shin minyo “T’aep’yŏngga” (Song of Peace) for inclusion in the standard Kyŏnggi minyo repertoire.214 Finally, around 1939, Yi’s teacher suggested that she participate in a singing contest held at Hŭngmyŏng Theater. At the occasion, Yi not only won first prize, but also met her future husband, with whom she would have a daughter and a son. At the age of eighteen Yi subsequently began working for the theater for a while, singing songs in front of the ticket booth in order to lure in customers.215 To reduce the amount of time and money spent traveling, the family moved back to Seoul, but her husband soon fell ill and died. Although in order to make ends meet she ran a small eatery, her teacher had recommended her for radio work, which would soon offera significant secondary source of income. (p.113) Yi recalls her first appearance: “In those days there were no recording methods available, so radio was [all] live broadcasts. I sang, beating the changgu [hourglass drum] in a room with tatami mats on the floor. It wasn’t, like, ‘sing this,’ but I had to sing what I knew. And, because it was live, it would come out the way I sang it, good or bad.”216

When she was twenty-two years old, Yi participated in a competition called Myŏngch’ang taehoe (Great Singers Convention), held at Tansŏngsa Theater. Because she once again won first prize, her career began to really take off. She became a prolific artist, performing songs from several regions for radio and TV stations and appearing on more than eighty records, almost twice as many as the other holders of Kyŏnggi minyo. In 1947, Yi found work as a folksong teacher for the Taehan kugagwŏn (Korean Traditional Music Institute) in Seoul’s central Taok-tong. In 1955, she returned to Tansŏngsa Theater to compete in the first Korean traditional music contest and won first prize yet again, this time for singing Kyŏnggi chapka.217 In the 1960s and 1970s she often joined her peers at events organized by the Korean Folksong Research Society.

Despite Yi’s reputation, however, she was told she would only become a holder if she could sing shibi chapka. The deliberation regarding her appointment initially led her to freeze her singing style and stick to a set repertoire: “Before I was appointed I was an ‘assistant teacher.’ Because I was still young, I couldn’t sing that many songs, but as I grew older I realized that this song has to be sung like this, that song like that, and so on. In those days teachers would just sit down and teach and I was never able to sing in a different way, but I thought of how I could sing the songs my own way and I changed them all.”218 Ever since Hwang Yongju’s book, A Compendium of the Vocal Music from Korea’s Kyŏnggi and Western Provinces (Han’guk kyŏng/sŏdo ch’angak taegye), came out in 1993, Yi has used it for all of her teaching. Due to the availability of recordings and books, she feels that students have it much easier now than she did when she started out. Yi had to memorize every thing and her teachers would whip her on the calf whenever she made a mistake. Even so, she believes the standard has much improved because students all genuinely want to learn to sing.219 Around the early 2000s, she still provided guest lectures at Ehwa Women’s University, but now she teaches at home, in her relatively spacious traditional-style house in central Seoul’s Kwŏnnong-dong. Because of her very old age, her status was changed to that of honorary holder on July 12, 2013, though she continues to be involved in the teaching and performance of her art.

Yi has one female future holder and five assistant teachers, Kim Kŭmsuk, Kim Yŏngim, Kim Changsun, Kim Hyeran, and Yi Yŏnhwa. She also has fifteen to twenty graduates, both male and female, but she told me she tried to avoid taking on male students.220 Her relationship with Kim Kŭmsuk (b. 1949), another former student of Yi Ch’angbae’s song institute, has been poor. In 1997, (p.114) she told me: “Now I have one [gradu ate] too, but the relationship between us isn’t good, so I don’t teach her. She cannot sing very well. So, I worry a lot. I tried to get the Munhwajae kwalliguk to drop her, but that was no longer possible because she’s already appointed.”221 In 2013, Yi Ŭnju said the relationship was still bad and that they rarely met.222 Perhaps unsurprisingly, in an interview back in 1991, Kim refrained from praising Yi. While senior students commonly tend to express admiration for their mentors, Kim’s praise for Yi was rather dispassionate: “As a house wife she’s thorough, as a Christian she’s devoted, and as a singer she’s of course a talented artist.”223

Pedigrees Ignored

Hong Hyŏnshik and Pak Hŏnbong, the compilers of the 1969 government report on Kyŏnggi minyo, left much unexplained. On March 18, 1970, the Cultural Properties Committee therefore agreed to disregard the report, saying that it “contain[ed] too many deficiencies.” They commissioned Pak Hŏnbong to compile a new report under the name “Kyŏnggi chapka.”224 But even this second report fails to explain why Kim Okshim (original name Kim Aehŭi) was not appointed despite being nominated. Her rejection—she was appointed future holder—has fueled suspicion that the preservation system is corrupt.225 Kim Okshim was born on August 30, 1925, in Insa-dong, in the township of Changhŭng in Yangju County, north of Seoul. Like Muk Kyewŏl and Yi Ŭnju, she studied at the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn with Chu Subong and Ch’oe Chŏngshik.226 After her training she often appeared on stage, alongside her folksong peers, as well as with the noted court musicians Kim Ch’ŏnhŭng, Kim Kisu, and Sŏng Kyŏngnin. Kim also joined her peers An Pich’wi, Muk Kyewŏl, and Yi Ŭnju at the Korean Folksong Research Society.227 She was a prolific recording artist and performer, and appeared on more records than An and Muk. Having earned a status equal to that of the three Kyŏnggi minyo holders before their appointments, in 1968 she even beat them to win the Prime Minister’s Award at the first National Contest for Korean Traditional Music.228 It seems she stopped performing some seven years before her death in January 1988. On April 29, 1975, shortly before her departure from the scene, the CPC agreed not to consider Kim for appointment as holder of Kyŏnggi minyo, because it had been too long since she withdrew from the arts world,229 but reports of her performing can be found in the Munye yŏn’gam (Yearbook of culture and arts) for 1975 and 1978 and the Han’guk yesulchi (Record of Korean arts) published in 1980.230 Folksong enthusiast Kim Munsŏng, who spent many years trying to raise money and resources to see Kim Okshim’s full oeuvre preserved, believes that she was not appointed as holder because she suffered from high blood pressure and was (p.115)

Masculinity in Demise and

A 1954 recording session at the Seoul Central Broadcasting Station (later renamed KBS Radio 1). Yi Ŭnju and Kim Okshim sit in third and fourth positions from the left, respectively.

(Photo reproduced courtesy of Korean folk music critic Kim Munseong.)

unable to perform regularly.231 There may be more to the story. According to Yi Ŭnju, Kim became very depressed over having been passed over, and it was her subsequent heavy drinking that caused her early death.232

In their CPC report on Kyŏnggi minyo, Hong Hyŏnshik and Pak Hŏnbong acknowledge that the genre was originally dominated by male singers in the late nineteenth century and that each of the five men they nominated for the position of holder of Kyŏnggi minyo had at some point taught one of the four female nominees.233 Eventually, however, the men were appointed for Sant’aryŏng instead. Although they could have been appointed for both Sant’aryŏng and Kyŏnggi minyo, it was presumably considered best to appoint others for the latter genre, in order to divide up the large number of students between both. Yi Pohyŏng once told me it was wrong to appoint only women as official representatives of Kyŏnggi minyo, but it would have been hard to avoid, considering Yu Ch’ang is currently the only man among the official graduate students and assistant teachers.

For the reasons discussed in chapter 2, the current number of female students of folk arts, and folksongs in particular, has begun to affect the association of traditions with specific genders. While they are mostly practical, the idea that women are better seen singing songs while they are sitting rather than standing (as in Sant’aryŏng) may have also played a part in their inevitable appointment as Kyŏnggi minyo holders. Martin Stokes notes, “The boundaries that (p.116) separate male and female and assign to each other proper social practices are as ‘natural’ as the boundaries which separate one community from another. Musical practices are no exception—it is as ‘natural’ that men will make better trumpeters as it is ‘natural’ that women will make better harpists.”234 Related to this is the iconic image of geisha, whose performances have long represented the summit of elegance and perfection, at least in Japan and Korea’s patriarchal societies, and the Orientalizing West. The idea that women’s femininity often affects what is expected of a piece of music implies that certain forms of music, especially those that are traditionally associated with boisterousness and physical power, like Sant’aryŏng, are considered less ideal for female musicians.235 Rather than their musicianship or artistry, it is their visual performance that set a standard of presentation that the recording industry and other media in colonial Korea would endorse from early on and encourage kisaeng to emulate. This standard was not abandoned upon liberation, but would continue to serve as an important point of reference to those involved in Kyŏnggi minyo’s preservation.


(1.) Although the term sŏdo literally means “western provinces,” the provinces are located in the northwestern part of the peninsula that now forms part of North Korea.

(2.) In an interview on July 8, 2013, Sŏdo sori singer Pak Chunyŏng told me that 90 percent of his students were women and he expected that percentage to increase.

(6.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 22, 1997.

(9.) See pictures in ibid., pp. 141–143. See also Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng pojonhoe (Society for the Preservation of Standing Mountain Songs), “Chungyo muhyŏng munhwajae che-19-ho kihoek kongyŏn” (Planned performances of IICP no. 19), p. 12.

(10.) For more on the sogo, see Hesselink, P’ungmul, p. 60.

(16.) Ibid., p. 164.

(19.) Yi Pohyŏng believes that “Hwach’o sagŏri” may have been composed by the singer Shin Pangch’o (“Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng,” p. 168).

(28.) A translation of the verse can be found in Hahn, Kugak, p. 150.

(31.) Chang Sahun, Kugak taesajŏn, p. 254. The term kŏri can also be used to indicate a break in a piece of music (ibid., p. 86).

(34.) Ibid., p. 239. See also Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 350; Chang Sahun, “Sŏdo sŏnsori” (Standing songs from the western provinces), p. 106.

(35.) This song must not be mistaken for the shin minyo of the same name (Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 783; Chang Sahun, Kugak taesajŏn, p. 240).

(38.) Ibid., p. 246.

(40.) The use of the term kŏri in this song title could be similar to its use in “Ch’angbu kŏri,” part of a shaman ritual, where it signifies “part” or “section.”

(42.) Kim was a former graduate of holder Yu Kaedong and not, therefore, as Shin Ch’an’gyun claims, a holder of Sant’aryŏng (Yi Pohyŏng, “Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng,” p. 169; Shin Ch’an’gyun, Minsog-ŭi kohyang, p. 103). Hwang Yongju claims that Yu Kaedong did not have any graduates (Han’guk kyŏng/sŏdo ch’angak taegye, 1: p. 160).

(45.) According to Sung Soon Kim, the troupes consisted of lay monks who were forced into a life as itinerant entertainers when the dynasty’s new philosophy devastated livelihoods reliant on Buddhist faith (“Priests, Entertainers, or Prostitutes,” p. 41).

(49.) Chang Sahun, “Kyŏnggido ipch’ang-gwa sŏdo ipch’ang” (Standing songs from Kyŏnggi province and the western provinces), p. 9; Shim Usŏng, Namsadangp’ae yŏn’gu (A study of namsadang groups), p. 34; Han’guk minsok taesajŏn p’yŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, Han’guk minsok taesajŏn (Great dictionary of Korean folklore), 2: p. 728. Shim Usŏng argues that sadangp’ae were “composed of women,” with each sadang having several male kŏsa assigned to her (“Namsadang,” p. 456). For more on the etymology of both terms, see Sung Soon Kim, “Priests, Entertainers, or Prostitutes,” pp. 39–43.

(51.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, November 28, 1995.

(52.) Song Sŏkha, Han’guk minsok ko (Studies on Korean folklore), p. 102; “Sadang go (Scrutinizing sadang), p. 164.

(54.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 29, 1995.

(56.) Sim Woo-Sung, “Namsadang,” p. 456; interview with Shim Usŏng, December 1, 1995.

(57.) Shim Usŏng refers to the women as part of a couple with the kŏsa; Howard translates this as “married” (Shim Usŏng, Namsadangp’ae yŏn’gu, p. 34; Howard, Bands, Songs, and Shamanistic Rituals, p. 94).

(60.) Interview with Shim Usŏng, December 1, 1995. Pictures (dated April 25, 1938) of one of the last sadangp’ae can be found in Song Sŏkha, Minsok sashil t’ŭkpyŏl chŏndo nok (A special complete record of the state of folklore), pp. 88–89.

(61.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 29, 1995.

(63.) Son Inae, Hyangt’o minyo-e suyongdoen sadangp’ae sori, pp. 11, 13. An official namsadangp’ae still exists today. On August 1, 1988, twenty-four years after the appointment of Pak Kyesun (b. 1934) as holder of one aspect of this group’s repertoire, Kkoktugakshi norŭm (Puppet Play; IICP no. 3), the group’s entire repertoire was officially acknowledged (Munhwajae kwalliguk, Chungyo muhyŏng munhwajae hyŏnhwang1997, p. 14). Whereas the group recognizes both its male and female ancestries, and is keenly nurturing an interest among young practitioners, it is unlikely that mudong (dancing boys) will resurface, having disappeared toward the end of the colonial period.

(64.) While most of the boys had been given to the group by parents unable to provide for them, some of them were orphans or runaways, or had been kidnapped (Shim Usŏng, Namsadangp’ae yŏn’gu, p. 41).

(65.) Chang Sahun, Kugak taesajŏn, p. 170; Han’guk minsok taesajŏn p’yŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, Han’guk minsok taesajŏn, 1: p. 536; Sŏmundang, Sajin-ŭro ponŭn Chosŏn shidae: saenghwalgwa p’ungsok (Chosŏn dynasty shown through pictures: Daily life and customs), 1: p. 112; interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 22, 1997.

(67.) Interview with Shim Usŏng, December 1, 1995.

(70.) The collection of money during the singing was called tunyang mŏri (Yi Pohyŏng, “Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng,” p. 165; Chang Sahun, “Kyŏnggido ipch’ang-gwa sŏdo ipch’ang,” pp. 14, 19; Paek Taeung, “Kyŏnggido sori,” p. 14).

(72.) Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: pp. 271, 330; Yi Pohyŏng, “Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng,” p. 167. Yi Pohyŏng believes that Shin Nakt’aek was born around 1840 (ibid., 164 ).

(73.) Kim Hyeri and Chang Hwiju, Sŏnsori san’taryŏng (Standing mountain songs), pp. 52–53. Chang Sahun claims that Shin was married to Wŏlsŏn and that he owed his success to his wife (Yŏmyŏng-ŭi tongsŏ ŭmak [Eastern and western music in the new age], pp. 143–146). A kisaeng by the same name appears in the songs “P’yŏngyangga” and “Sŏnyuga” that form part of the core repertoire of Kyŏnggi minyo, described later in this chapter.

(75.) Chang Sahun, Kugak kaeyo (An outline of Korean traditional music), p. 220; Im Tonggwŏn, “Folk Plays,” p. 98.

(78.) Pan Chaeshik, Chaedam ch’ŏnnyŏn sa (A thousand-year history of comic storytelling), p. 235; see also picture in Kim Hyeri and Chang Hwiju, Sŏnsori san’taryŏng, p. 56.

(84.) See Jigu Records Corp., Han’guk ŭmak sŏnjip che-21-chip: Sŏnsori-wa chapka (Selections of Korean music, vol. 21, Sŏnsori and chapka), JCD-9311, 1993. The CDs were produced for the National Gugak Center Library and were not commercially released. Remastered Victor recordings of northwestern versions of “Apsan t’aryŏng,” “Twissan t’aryŏng,” and “Chajin sant’aryŏng” from 1939 are included on the CD Sŏdo sori sŏnjip (A Selection of Songs from the Western Provinces), Seoul Records SRCD-1202, 1994.

(p.196) (92.) Hahn, Kugak, p. 143; Chŏng Chaeho, Han’guk chapka chŏnjip, pp. 296, 491. See also excerpt from the old publication Shinjŏng chŭngbo shin’gu chapka (Revised and complemented old and new chapka), transcribed in Kim Insuk and Kim Hyeri, Sŏdo sori, pp. 37–38.

(97.) Reports on Chŏng’s study with Ch’oe differ. Yi Pohyŏng reports that Chŏng studied shijo and chapka, but Pak Sŏnghŭi reports that Chŏng was taught kagok and kasa (Yi Pohyŏng, “Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng,” p. 169; Pak Sŏnghŭi, I saram ihu, p. 49). The accounts are likely complementary, because Ch’oe and many of his peers, including his well-known student Ch’oe Chŏngshik, mastered all four song types (Yu Iksŏ, “Chŏng Tŭngman,” p. 220; Hahn, Kugak, pp. 22–23).

(104.) Yu Iksŏ, “Chŏng Tŭngman,” p. 223; Pak Sŏnghŭi, I saram ihu, p. 49. In Yu Iksŏ’s elaborate account of the singer’s life, there is no mention of Chŏng’s work as a gardener for Japanese residents (“Chŏng Tŭngman,” pp. 217–225). Chŏng presumably felt reluctant to talk about it, given that anti-Japanese sentiments remained strong at the time of Yu’s interview.

(107.) Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 178; Yu Iksŏ, “Chŏng Tŭngman,” p. 224. Chŏng was also put forward as a candidate holder of Kyŏnggi minyo in 1969 (Hong Hyŏnshik and Pak Hŏnbong, Chwach’ang Kyŏnggi kin chapka (Long chapka from Kyŏnggi province sung seated), pp. 377–378).

(109.) No Chaemyŏng, 1962-nyŏn Han’guk minyo yŏn’guhoe ‘minyo Yo-ŭi hyangyŏn’ inswaemul charyo haeje” (Bibliographical notes on the Korean Folksong Research Society’s 1962 publication “Delights of the folksong show”), p. 400. The society had been managed by Yi Sohyang until An Pich’wi took over the helm, prob ably around the mid 1960s. See Kim Ŭnjŏng, “An Pich’wi,” p. 25; see also figure 3.5.

(110.) Maeil kyŏngje, February 23, 1971, 5; Kim Ŭnjŏng, “An Pich’wi,” p. 25.

(111.) Shin Chŏnghŭi, “An Pich’wi yŏsa 13-se-e immun Kyŏnggi minyo-ro muhyŏng munhwajae” (Madame An Pich’wi from her debut at the age of thirteen to intangible cultural property of Kyŏnggi minyo); No Chaemyŏng, 1962-nyŏn Han’guk minyo yŏn’guhoe,” p. 400.

(112.) Maeil kyŏngje, August 21, 1982, 9.

(115.) Interview with Hwang Yongju, November 18, 1995; Paek Taeung, “Kyŏnggido sori,” p. 21.

(117.) Interview with Hwang Yongju, November 18, 1995.

(121.) Hwang Yongju, Han’guk kyŏng/sŏdo ch’angak taegye, 1: p. 160; Kim Hyeri and Chang Hwiju, Sŏnsori san’taryŏng, pp. 163–165. On November 30, 2009, Pang Yŏnggi replaced then holder-elect Yun Chongp’yŏng (1945–2009), who passed away that year (Bang So-Yeon, pers. comm., July 22, 2013).

(122.) Interview with Hwang Yongju, September 19, 2012; see also Sŏnsori sant’aryŏng pojonhoe, “Chungyo muhyŏng munhwajae che-19-ho,” p. 10.

(125.) A picture in Sŏk Chusŏn shows the singers performing without the silk waistcoats (Han’guk pokshik sa [A history of Korean dress and accessories], p. 225).

(126.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, September 26, 1995.

(128.) Hwang Yongju, Han’guk kyŏng/sŏdo ch’angak taegye, 1: pp. 141–143. A picture in Sŏk Chusŏn shows the singers performing without hairbands (Han’guk pokshik sa, p. 225).

(133.) Howard, “Gender Issues in the Conservation of Korean Music,” p. 182; interview with Yi Pohyŏng, August 14, 1995.

(134.) Interview with Im Tonggwŏn, September 15, 1995.

(135.) When Hwang Yongju and his senior students were invited to perform at Seoul’s Chŏngdong Theater on September 30, 1995, he brought along only male senior students.

(136.) According to Yi Pohyŏng, Kyŏnggi minyo should all be regarded as refined folksongs, chapka, because like Sŏdo sori, they had been elevated through stage performances and recordings over a long period of time (interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 29, 1995 ).

(137.) Former holder Muk Kyewŏl has commented that although she used to sit throughout her performance, by the 1990s she had become accustomed to occasionally getting up and dancing with an hourglass drum (Muk, cited in Pak Sŏnghŭi, I saram ihu, p. 22).

(140.) According to legend, in China’s ancient times King Fu Xi was the first to teach his people how to fish, hunt, and farm livestock (Hwang Yongju, Han’guk kyŏng/sŏdo ch’angak taegye, 1: p. 306).

(144.) An example can be found on Seoul Records 9407-G526 (1994), Hŭnggyŏun sorip’anesŏ (On the joyous folk scene).

(147.) An example of this style of singing can be found on Oasis ORC-1233 (1991), Muhyŏng munhwajae che-57-ho (ICCP no. 57). Typical Kyŏnggi folksongs that are not regarded as t’ongsok minyo, but are sung in very much the same way, include the hwimori chapka, songs such as “Kŭmgangsan t’aryŏng” (Ballad of Mount Kŭmgang) and a number of shin minyo. The latter include “P’ungdŭngga,” which was composed by Ch’oe Chŏngshik in 1903, and “T’aep’yŏngga” (Song of Peace), composed shortly after the Pacific War (Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: pp. 213, 790).

(148.) Chŏng Tŭngman, quoted in Pak Sŏnghŭi, I saram ihu, p. 51.

(149.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, October 26, 1997.

(150.) See Taedo Records, Muk Kyewŏl Kyŏnggi chapka wanch’angjip (Muk Kyewŏl, a complete recital of Kyŏnggi chapka), JCDS-0542, 1997; see also Ryu Ŭiho, Muk Kyewŏl Kyŏnggi sori yŏn’gu, p. 289.

(151.) Nipponophone K210-A/B.

(152.) See Jigu Inc., Kyŏnggi myŏngch’ang Pak Ch’unjae (Pak Ch’unjae, the famous singer from Kyŏnggi province), JCDS-0542, 1996.

(157.) Interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 29, 1995; Ryu Ŭiho, Muk Kyewŏl Kyŏnggi sori yŏn’gu, p. 29.

(159.) Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 165; interview with Yi Pohyŏng, October 29, 1995.

(166.) Michael Robinson notes that some listeners complained that the radio was using kisaeng (“Broadcasting, Cultural Hegemony,” p. 65).

(167.) See Tonga ilbo, September 22, 1921, 3; November 30, 1921, 3; May 13, 1922, 3; November 28, 1923, 3; May 20, 1924, 7; August 17, 1926, 5; December 17, 1930, 5; April 8, 1931, 3; April 24, 1938, 3; and Chosŏn ilbo (Korea daily) January 26, 1926, 2; September 6, 1927, 2; August 7, 1931, 7. In several cases, it was reported that the girls had committed suicide because they were unable to be with a man they loved (Tonga ilbo, December 20, 1923, 3; December 11, 1925, 3; and Chosŏn ilbo, July 17, 1925, 2; October 24, 1929, 7). For more on the various reasons behind young women’s suicide and their reportage during the colonial period, see Theodore Jun Yoo, The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea, pp. 2, 59, 162, 175. For more on the use of drugs among kisaeng, see Hwang Miyŏn, Kwŏnbŏn-gwa kisaeng-ŭro, p. 231.

(173.) Han’guk minsok taesajŏn p’yŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, Han’guk minsok taesajŏn, 1: p. 189. According to Sŏl Hojŏng, the Hansŏng and Hannam kwŏnbŏn mostly attracted students from the area around Pusan, while the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn drew mainly students from Seoul (Sŏl Hojŏng, “Nŭlgŭn kisaeng Ch’ohyangi,” p. 73).

(174.) Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 166; Chosŏn yŏn’guhoe (Research Society of Colonial Korea), Chosŏn miin pogam (Handbook of Korean beauties), p. 9; Kim Ŭnjŏng, “An Pich’wi,” p. 23; No Tongŭn, Han’guk kŭndae ŭmak sa (A modern history of Korean traditional music), p. 559. According to Sŏl Hojŏng, the school was established in 1919. He notes that the Chosŏn kwŏnbŏn had initially been known as the Taejŏng kwŏnbŏn (“Nŭlgŭn kisaeng Ch’ohyangi,” p. 73; see also Chosŏn yŏn’guhoe, Chosŏn miin pogam).

(178.) Quoted in ibid., p. 271.

(187.) An’s recollection of her first performance for SBC bears witness to the strong bond between the group members (Kim Myŏnggŏn, Han, Kim Myŏnggon-ŭi kwangdae kihaeng, p. 274).

(199.) The fact that Muk’s husband had already been married suggests that even popular kisaeng were not in the position to be choosy about their husbands-to-be.

(202.) Koreans have long celebrated sixtieth birthdays (hwan’gap) elaborately because at this age a person has arrived at the start of a second cycle of the Korean sexagenary calendar. Ryu Ŭiho, Muk Kyewŏl Kyŏnggi sori yŏn’gu, p. 34.

(p.201) (212.) The government report gives his name as On Kyŏngt’ae (Hong Hyŏnshik and Pak Hŏnbong, Chwach’ang Kyŏnggi kin chapka, p. 379).

(213.) Pak Kyŏngsu, Sorikkundŭl, pp. 217–218; interview with Yi Ŭnju, October 26, 1997.

(215.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, July 8, 2013.

(216.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, October 26, 1997.

(218.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, October 26, 1997.

(219.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, April 23, 2001.

(221.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, October 26, 1997.

(222.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, July 8, 2013.

(228.) Maeil kyŏngje, April 27, 1968, 3.

(232.) Interview with Yi Ŭnju, July 8, 2013.