What Is The North Korean National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Scroll
What Is The North Korean National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Scroll

"Aegukka" (Chosŏn'gŭl: 애국가; lit. 'Patriotism Song'), officially translated as the "Patriotic Song", is the national anthem of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea. It was composed in 1945 as a patriotic song celebrating independence from Japanese occupation and was adopted as the state anthem in 1947.

A year before the establishment of North Korea in 1948, the government of the then Soviet-controlled sector of Korea adopted a new anthem (the one in use at that time was the anthem of South Korea with its former melody of the Scottish tune “Auld Lang Syne”). Unlike most North Korean patriotic songs, the anthem does not mention either the ruling party or the founder of the nation. The title of the anthem is also the same as South Korea’s (as well as that of the predecessor to the Koreas, the Korean Empire), and the music is somewhat similar to the South Korean one as well. There has also been a “united Korean anthem” created by blending the melodies of the anthems of North and South Korea seamlessly, used by some to promote Korean re-unification.

Here are the anthem’s history, original lyrics and English translation.

History of North Korean national anthem

Originally, the Korean exile government (1919–1945) in Shanghai, China adopted as their national anthem "Aegukga" (which has the same name with a different Romanization) to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne". After World War II, South Korea kept the words, put to a new tune (changed from "Auld Lang Syne"), while North Korea adopted this newly written piece in 1947. The words were written by Pak Se-yong and the music was composed by Kim Won-gyun.

In the early 1980s, Kim Jong-il sought to reduce the song's importance to the benefit of "Song of General Kim Il-sung".

The complete version of "Aegukka" consists two verses. On official occasions, when only the first verse is performed, it is customary to repeat the last four bars. However, if both verses are performed, it is the last four bars of the second verse that are repeated instead.

"Song of General Kim Il-sung" and "Song of General Kim Jong-il" have since taken the place of de facto national anthems domestically, and "Aegukka" is reserved for representing North Korea internationally: when foreign dignitaries visit the country or North Korean athletes compete at international sporting competitions. Compared to other nations, the North Korean national anthem is not often performed inside the country (except for radio and television sign-off) and thus many North Koreans do not know the lyrics.

"Aegukka" is almost unique among most North Korean patriotic songs, as it praises neither the Workers' Party of Korea, nor the Kim dynasty, but rather the whole of Korea itself.

"Aegukka" is played at the start of each of Korean Central Television's broadcast days.

Lyrics of North Korean national anthem

"Aegukka" is a Romanized transliteration of "The Patriotic Song"; the song is also known by its incipit Ach'imŭn pinnara or "Let Morning Shine" or in its Korean name 아침빛나라 or alternatively as the "Song of a Devotion to a Country".

The Encyclopedia of Korean Culture defines "Aegukka" as "the song to wake up the mind to love the country". "Aegukka" in itself is differentiated from a national anthem. While a national anthem or gukka (lit. 'country song') is an official symbol of the state, aegukka refers to any song, official or unofficial, that contains patriotic fervor towards its country, such as Hungary's "Szózat" or the U.S. "The Stars and Stripes Forever". However, the nationally designated "Aegukka" plays the role of symbolizing the country. In general shorthand, the term aegukka refers to the national anthem of North Korea.

Korean lyrics (Chosŏn'gŭl (Han-geul) script)

1. 아침은 빛나라 이 강산

은금의 자원도 가득한

삼천리 아름다운 내 조국

반만년 오랜 력사에

찬란한 문화로 자라난

슬기론 인민의 이 영광

몸과 맘 다바쳐 이 조선

길이 받드세

2. 백두산 기상을 다 안고

근로의 정신은 깃들어

진리로 뭉쳐진 억센 뜻

온 세계 앞서 나가라

솟는 힘 노도도 내밀어

인민의 뜻으로 선 나라

한없이 부강하는

이 조선 길이 빛내세

Korean lyrics (McCune-Reischauer Romanization)

1. Achimŭn pinnara i kangsan

Ŭnkume, cawŏnto katŭk han

Samchŏlli, arŭmtaun nae cokuk,

Panmannyŏn oraen ryŏksa e.

Chanranhan munhwaro caranan

Sŭlkiron inmin yi i yŏngkwang:

Momkwa mam tapachyŏ, i, cosŏn

Kili pattŭse.

2. Paektusan Kisangŭl ta anko.

Kŭlloyi cŏngsinŭn kittŭlŏ.

Chilriro mungchyŏcin ŏksen ttŭs

On sekye aphsŏ nakara.

Sonnŭn him nototo naemilŏ,

Inminyi ttŭsŭro sŏn nara.

Han ŏpsi pukanghanŭn

I cosŏn kili pinnaese.

The North Korean National Anthem in English translation

1. Let morning shine on the silver and gold of this land,

Three thousand leagues packed with natural wealth.

My beautiful fatherland.

The glory of a wise people

Brought up in a culture brilliant

With a history five millennia long.

Let us devote our bodies and minds

To supporting this Korea for ever.

2. The firm will, bonded with truth,

Nest for the spirit of labour,

Embracing the atmosphere of Mount Paektu,

Will go forth to all the world.

The country established by the will of the people,

Breasting the raging waves with soaring strength.

Let us glorify for ever this Korea,

Limitlessly rich and strong.

Lyrics video of North Korean national anthem

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