And I’m one of them:
Here’s a transcript:
‘아빠 힘내세요’라는 동요 아시죠.
Anchor: You know the song Cheer Up Father, yes?
어깨 축 쳐진 아빠에게 아이들이 용기를 줬던 노래인데 이 노래가 양성평등을 저해한다는 판정이 나와 문화관광부가 해명자료까지 내는 소동이 벌어졌습니다.
This is the song which gives encouragement to exhausted, depressed fathers, but it has been recently criticized for hindering gender equality. In response, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism issued a statement clarifying what the song is really about.
무슨일인지, 박철현 기자가 보도합니다.
Park Cheol-hyon reports:
“아빠 힘내세요, 우리가 있잖아요”
1997년 발표된 동요 ‘아빠 힘내세요’입니다.
“Dad, cheer up/be strong, you have us”: this is the children’s song released in 1997.
“IMF때 굉장히 많이 들어봤고요. 아이들이 보자마자 불러줬을 때 저절로 힘도 났고..”
Cho Hong-joon, Person on the street #1:
“I heard this song a lot during the IMF Crisis. It cheered me up when my kids sang it to me”.
그런데 문화관광부는 이 노래가 우리 사회 양성 평등 의식을 해치는 대표적인 사례 중 하나라는 연구 결과를 발표했습니다.
However, in a statement of research results released by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, this song was given as an example of something hindering gender equality awareness.
이 노래가 경제활동을 하는 것은 남성이라는 고정 관념을 키워준다는 겁니다.
This song encourages the notion that it is only men that should partake in economic activity.
특히 엄마가 요리하면서 아빠를 기다리는 만화 동영상은 여성은 가사 노동만 한다는 선입견을 심어줄 수 있다고 지적했습니다.
In particular, a popular accompanying video for the song depicts women cooking while waiting for their husbands, perpetuating traditional gender roles.
[James: Actually, only one of videos shown in the report does that; it can be viewed here.]
“여자들도 많이 일을 하고 더 힘들어요. 여자가 들어봤을 때는 별로인 것 같아요.”
Park Hyeon-joo, Person on the street #2:
“Women work a lot, and it’s harder for us. When they hear it, women don’t care for this song.”
하지만 황당하다는 반응이 많습니다.
But many people replied that the criticisms were nonsense.
“노래는 노래일 뿐이지, 거기에 그런 의미를 부여한다면 그게 더 문제..”
Jeon Byeong-rok, person on the street #3:
“This song is just a song, it only becomes problematic if you read too much into it.”
노래를 만든 현직 초등학교 교사 한수성씨는 가사는 아내가 썼고 이 노래로 국무총리 표창까지 받았다며 황당해했습니다.
The song writer Han Soo-seong, who is an elementary school teacher, said that the lyrics were written by his wife, and pointed out that he received an award from the Prime Minister for it.
“가사가 그렇게 깊은 뜻을 담고 있는 지 몰랐습니다. 말도 안되는 거죠”
“I don’t think that the lyrics have that deeper [sexist] meaning. It’s ridiculous to say so.”
논란이 커지자 문화관광부는 양성 평등 교육에 참고하라고 진행된 연구 결과일 뿐 유해 가요로 지정한 건 아니라고 해명했습니다.
In response to the controversy, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism clarified that the research was only conducted to further the cause of gender equality, not naming and shaming. (End.)
This report is actually a few years old. But the topic still regularly pops up in my Google Keyword Alerts and on Twitter, albeit usually only leading to Ilbe and DC Inside users having a good laugh at the feminazis. Emboldened perhaps, by the Ministry’s criticisms falling on such deaf ears.
Because it’s still taught to just about every Korean child, even those too young to understand it:
Demanding it of guests is still part of the repertoire of the variety-show hosts, used to elicit infantilized gender performances from girl-group members. For instance, from 20 year-old Yoo-a of Oh My Girl below (which is not to say her tears aren’t genuine):
It’s still such an ingrained part of Korean culture, that even insurance company employees will name their project teams after it, and the media will raise it in reports about the dutiful daughters of male politicians (as well as commenting on their beauty):
And finally, because Korean fathers still work among the longest hours in the world, and wish they could be home in time to see their families. As this recent feel-good advertisement makes clear:
Who else but a feminazi would deprive Korean fathers of such a small source of joy?
But wait. Most of those examples above aren’t exactly compelling reasons to continue teaching the song to children. What’s more, even if you still don’t find the song problematic, or how it’s used, there remains the inconvenient fact that MOTHERS WORK TOO:
(“Women work a lot, and it’s harder for us. When they hear it, women don’t care for this song.”)
Is Park Hyeon-ju referring to work inside the house, outside, or both? A song about the former would hardly challenge traditional gender roles. Yet even that would be an improvement on something that only acknowledges the work of men. Twenty years after Cheer Up Father was written, it’s high time to acknowledge its flaws, and to begin teaching children something much more inclusive.
My suggestion is for the government to arrange a national songwriting competition. It should be determined by popular vote (the public tends to be better judges of what’s catchy), with the winning entry to replace Cheer Up Father in kindergartens and elementary schools.
Do any readers know of any examples like that from other countries? How did they go?
Update: A friend mentioned it would be a pity to lose such a catchy song, and jokingly suggested replacing appa “아빠” (father) with eomppa “엄빠,” a combination of appa and eomma “엄마” (mother) which is actually a word already, although one of those ones everyone knows but has never actually used. But I’d be all for that, especially if the videos and songbook illustrations were changed accordingly. While using the word would be awkward at first, much of this blog is about Korean companies’ and the media’s proclivity for inventing new labels and buzzwords, many—most—of which were also very awkward at first, but some of which have definitely stuck. So why not?
- Korean Sociological Image #63: Childcare No Longer Only Women’s Job!
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- Korean Sociological Image #24: Childcare is Women’s Job
- Korean Sociological Image #15: Gendered Health Drinks