This Sunday, August 15th, marks Liberation Day or 광복절 (Gwangbok jeol), the 65th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. On August 15, 1945, the late Emperor Hirohito made act of unconditional surrender of Japan to the allied forces. With that came the end of Japan’s various colonies including Taiwan, Korea, parts of Mainland China, and quite a few other countries in Asia.
As those who know me well can attest, I am a fan of national anthems. I am quite partial to the Korean national anthem, the Aeguk’ga (愛國歌). The Chinese characters which make up the title are first, the character for love, second the character for country, and thirdly the character for song. So it is quite literally the song of love of the country. The words were written about 1896, though exactly who wrote them is a matter of dispute. Originally, this anthem was sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. The Korean composer Ahn Eak-tae found that the stirring words hardly matched the music. He adapted the finale of his orchestral work Korea Fantasia to serve as a fitting melody for the national anthem of a great nation.