What is South Korea’s national anthem, and what are the lyrics?

23 July 2021, 13:45

South Korea's players sing the national anthem prior to a friendly football match with Japan
South Korea's players sing the national anthem prior to a friendly football match with Japan. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

South Korea’s national anthem is a song called ‘Aegukga’ with a fascinating history, and links to the country’s northern neighbour.

South Korea, officially called the Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia that’s located on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s national anthem is a song called ‘Aegukga’. It was first performed in 1896 and was well known by the country’s population by 1910. The lyrics are of unknown origin, although many believe them to be from the pen of Korean political activist Yun Chi-ho, or that of Ahn Changho.

In terms of music, the song for a long time used the same tune as the Scottish folk song, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, of all things. In 1936, composer and conductor Ahn Eak-tai wrote an original melody for the piece to transform it into a uniquely Korean composition.

The song was adopted as the country’s national anthem in 1948 – the year the country was officially established as a democratic nation, following World War II, occupation and the division of the Korean peninsula into South Korea and North Korea.

Read more: What are the lyrics and history of Japan’s national anthem?

Do South Korea and North Korea have the same national anthems?

‘Aegukga’ translates as ‘Patriotic Song’ and South Korea’s national anthem shares its title with North Korea’s national song but, although the two share similarities in terms of melody, they are distinct anthems.

There is also a ‘united Korean anthem’ taking elements from both South Korea and North Korea’s songs, used by some to promote Korean reunification.

Read more: The world’s best national anthems

What are the lyrics to South Korea’s national anthem?

South Korea’s national anthem is patriotic and celebrates the country’s landscape, people and resilient spirit. The lyrics, translated into English, are as follows.

Until that day when the waters of the Eastern Sea run dry and Mt. Baekdu is worn away,
God protect and preserve our nation.

Chorus:

Three thousand Li of splendid rivers and mountains, filled with Roses of Sharon;
Great Korean people, stay true to the Great Korean way!

As the pine atop Mt. Namsan stands firm, as if wrapped in armour,
unchanged through wind and frost, so shall our resilient spirit.

Chorus

The Autumn sky is void and vast, high and cloudless;
the bright moon is our heart, undivided and true.

Chorus

With this spirit and this mind, give all loyalty,
in suffering or in joy, to the love of country.

Chorus

Korean version

동해 물과 백두산이 마르고 닳도록
하느님이 보우하사 우리나라 만세

Chorus:

무궁화 삼천리 화려강산
대한사람 대한으로 길이 보전하세

남산 위에 저 소나무 철갑을 두른 듯
바람서리 불변함은 우리 기상일세

Chorus

가을 하늘 공활한데 높고 구름 없이
밝은 달은 우리 가슴 일편단심일세

Chorus

이 기상과 이 맘으로 충성을 다하여
괴로우나 즐거우나 나라 사랑하세