Episode 507: History X Hip Hop Project: Our Great Heritage II: November 19, 2016
Last Week: We met the rappers for the Hip Hop Project and started history lessons with lecturer Seol Min-Suk.
Korean History Lesson
This episode continues on with the history lesson from the previous episode. I heard that lecturer Seol Min-Suk makes as much as 40 million won (~40,000 USD) per lecture. Of course he doesn’t get paid that much every time, it’s probably only for when he does guest lectures for corporations, conventions, universities, etc. But that means he makes more money after doing just one lecture than the average Korean adult makes in a year. Holy Moly that’s a lot of money.
The main points of his lecture are
- King Sejong the Great
- The Imjin Wars
- Admiral Lee Soon-shin
- Dokdo & Ahn Yong-bok
- Japanese Occupation & Yoo Kwan-soon
- Poet Yoon Dong-ju
- Independence activists Kim Gu and Yun Bong-gil
I have to admit, I’m disappointed with the direction of his lecture. I thought the purpose of this project was to introduce history to those who don’t know or care about it, but all of these topics are so basic that even elementary students in Korea know everything he’s talked about. It’s possible that the actual lecture went far more in depth, but from the way it’s edited, it doesn’t even look like lecturer Seol Min-Suk is talking about anything beyond the obvious.
The rappers obviously feel differently though.
BewhY says, “I feel a sense of duty now.”
Zico, “I feel very motivated now.”
Din Din, “I felt burdened at first that we might go down in history, in textbooks . . .”
The MCs tease him, who said they could write songs good enough to go down in history?
Park Myung-soo changes the tone, “We don’t need to be so serious, we should make enjoyable songs.”
Yoo Jae-suk also mentions that they can pick topics other than the ones that lecturer Seol Min-Suk mentioned today.
The MCs and rappers all cheer together and wrap up filming for the day.
Jeong Jun-ha and Zico (King Sejong the Great)
Jeong Jun-ha and Zico arrive at an office used by writers Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon who’ve written many hit dramas such as <Jewel in the Palace>, <Royal Family>, <Queen Seondeok>, <Six Flying Dragons>, and most importantly <Tree with Deep Roots> which is about King Sejong the Great and his quest to create the Korean alphabet.
The writers talk about how they faced a lot of backlash when they tried to write a TV drama about King Sejong the Great. It was because everyone already knows his story, so they had to look for fresh angles. For example, he had a troubling childhood, as all of his maternal uncles were killed during political strife. They describe him as having a lot of pain.
Jeong Jun-ha’s curious about how the writers came up with his personality for the TV drama since he’s someone who lived in the 1400s. They looked at his conflict with Choe Manri who was strongly opposed with the creation of the Korean alphabet, and realized that he was a very passionate person. He also truly did love the people of Korea, it’s not something that was made up afterwords to make him seem like a benevolent leader.
In fact, he was one of the first rulers in Korea to have a popular vote asking 200,000 commoners for their opinions on various policies such as maternity and paternity leave. He also wasn’t prejudice against people born from poor families. Some of his key advisers even started out as slaves. Despite all his work, he had time to have 22 children. Jeong Jun-ha and Zico find this hilarious. The writers defend King Sejong saying that it was part of his duty as king to have many descendants.
Yang Se-hyung and BewhY (Yoo Kwan-soon)
BewhY is interested in Japanese Occupation. Yang Se-hyung says he felt a sudden surge of emotions when the lecturer talked about it. Yang Se-hyung also adds that he says that he can do a bit of beatbox. BewhY responds that beatboxing was popular when he was in elementary school (which means he’s thinking “but not anymore!”)
They then go to the Seodaemun Prison History Museum which was an actual prison that’s now been transformed into a museum. I’ve been to this museum a couple of times, and it’s a very well made museum. It’s huge because it’s an entire prison complex with multiple buildings. There’s a ton of information.
At the museum they also meet up with Director Jo Jeong-rae of the film <Spirits’ Homecoming> which is about comfort women. Director Jo Jeong-rae says that a conservative estimate of 500,000 girls and women were taken as sex slaves, and only 20,000-30,000 returned home alive after the war. Currently, there are 40 former comfort women still alive.
Next, they meet with the museum director who takes them to a room with photos of the people who were jailed there. They also take a look around the prison cell that held Yoo Kwan-soon who’s often referred to as Korea’s Joan of Arc. Yoo Kwan-soon was heavily tortured in this prison.
Haha & Song Minho (Admiral Lee Soon-shin)
Haha says he wanted to work really hard at first, but now he feels pressured like this is something he needs to make for his descendants 500 years later. They talk about Song Minho’s song “Turtle Ship” which they’ll use as a jumping point to mix up another song about Admiral Lee Soon-shin.
History lecturer Seol Min-Suk is back to give them more information and direction. They learn more about Admiral Lee Soon-shin’s personal life. He talks about how most people think he was so perfect and heavenly, but the truth is he was a very depressed person. He failed his civil exams for fifteen years. Luckily he didn’t quit, because otherwise, Korea might not exist today. Unfortunately for him though, things didn’t get better for him once he passed his exams, because of politics. There’s a great YouTube lecture on his life here.
Next, they meet at The Story of Admiral Yi Sun-shin Exhibition Hall. It’s another great museum that I highly recommend to anyone who visits Seoul. There’s a random guy in a sweatshirt there and Haha asks, “Who’s this guy random person?” Random guy, “I wrote <The Admiral: Roaring Currents>” Haha, “OoOoOh sorry for not knowing.” (It was a hugely sucessful movie.)
Haha asks him for his favorite line, so that they can add it to their lyrics. He picks, “Your Highness, I still have twelve battleships.” This is a famous quote from when he wrote a letter to the King telling him not to shut down the navy. He was facing hundreds of Japanese ships, yet he not only bravely persevered with a handful of ships, but won without losing any of them!
Park Myung-soo & Din Din (Dokdo)
Din Din says he debated between Yoo Kwan-soon and Dokdo. Park Myung-soo has a song from 2005 titled, “We Love Dokdo,” so they decide to go with Dokdo. They want to go with something energetic that people can sing along with.
Hwang Kwang-hee and Gaeko (Yoon Dong-ju)
Gaeko says this was the first time he enjoyed a history lecture, and he particularly liked the parts about poet Yoon Dong-ju because they can use parts of his poems as lyrics. They visit the Yoon Dong-ju Memorial Hall where they meet with Professor Kim Eung-gyo. Next year will be the 100th year since the poet was born.
Poet Yoon Dong-ju thought of his generation as a hospital. Everyone around him was sick and depressed. The professor compares this to how young people these days are also depressed as this is called the Sampo Generation. It’s the generation that has to give up three things dating, marriage, and children because they can’t afford them financially.
Hwang Kwang-hee and Gaeko both sit at the poet’s desk and try their hands at writing. Gaeko is inspired to write a rap in just Korean, no English or other foreign words. We get a bunch of clips from the 2016 film <Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet>. Gaeko comments they should watch the movie again, I’ve been meaning to watch it as well, but kept pitting it off. This movie and <My Love, Don’t Cross that River> have been on my to watch list for months now.
Yoo Jae-suk and Dok2
Dok2 gets extra lesssons from lecturer Seol Min-suk since he was overseas for a concert during the original lecture. This team gets less than half a minute of screen time.
Next Week: The tears of polar bears