North Korean Revolutionary Tunes Sink to Bottom of the Sea

April 7, 2009

                                              By Jon Herskovitz

North Korea says somewhere up in the sky, a satellite it launched at the weekend is beaming to earth two revolutionary paeans: “Song of General Kim Il-sung” for the founder of the reclusive state and “Song of General Kim Jong-il,” for the son who succeeded him when he died.

U.S. and South Korean officials said the North Korean rockets did not send anything into space and all pieces of the rocket crashed into the sea, including the claimed satellite, which might have been North Korea’s oversized attempt to replicate an iPod.

The North Korean report was a a bit of a blast from the past because North Korea made a similar claim in 1998 that it had sent a satellite into orbit playing the exact same two songs.

There is far more to North Korea’s hit parade of songs than the two homilies it said were aboard its rocket. This is a country where soldiers sing, farmers sing, the hundreds of thousand gather in the centre of the capital Pyongyang to dance in special days and a refined teenage girl always has her accordion ready to play a tune.

The North Korea songbook is diverse. It has the dance number “Let’s Dash Forward to Build a Great Prosperous and Powerful Nation”. It has a tune for choral groups called “May the Song of a Happy Soldier Reverberate Far and Wide,” and it has a children’s song called Generalissimo Kim Il-sung Danced With Us.” Here are the lyrics as translated into English by the North:
On the New Year’s,
We danced together hand in hand
We danced out of our wish for his pleasure
The Generalissimo danced with us
Out of his wish for our happy future.
His parental love for us
Moved us to tears.
Our respect and filial devotion are growing.
The Generalissimo danced with us.

I saw this song performed about a year ago at the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace when I went to Pyongyang for the New York Philharmonic concert. The school is dedicated to the performing arts and the children, many still of primary school age, sang and danced their way through songs such as “Jingle Bells” and “We are Faithful Only to Kim Jong-il.”

When they grow older, the North Korean song book awaits them. Here is a top 10 list in no particular order of North Korea’s greatest hits:

* “Song of Defending Homeland”
* “The Ten-point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland”
* Let’s Dash Forward to Build a Great Prosperous and Powerful Nation”
* Let’s Hold Higher Rifle of Working Class”
* “Hopeful Is the Future of Us under the Care of the General”
* “May the Playing of My Accordion Resound Forth”
* “Song of the Coastal Artillery Women”
* “We Will Defend the Headquarters of Revolution with Our Lives”
* “Our General is Best”
* “We Have Planted Apple Trees on Mountains”

Perhaps, the next time North Korea attempts to launch a satellite, it might want to load a few of these tunes in order to expand its repertoire.

{Photos of Kim Jong-il with  with scientists and engineers involved in a rocket launch and a protest in Seoul against the launch]

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