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In Session: Korean Pop Fandom: Industry, Political Identity, Gender, and Community-Building
2: (Re)imagining “Tears of Mokp’o”: From a Korean Resistance Anthem to a Baseball Fight Song
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Hye Eun Choi
New York University Shanghai, United States
“At first, it may seem like a rock concert, but this is actually what a South Korean baseball game is all about,” reports ABC News, describing a passionate cheering culture centered around collective singing. This is one of the features of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) league in which South Korean fans develop a close connection with their teams’ fight songs. The fans of the Haitai Tigers were known to have an especially strong affection for the team and its song “Tears of Mokp’o,” since the Tigers were formidable in the 1980s and 90s despite coming from the politically oppressed and economically neglected Kwangju and Chŏlla region. With their traumatic memories of the Kwangju Uprising of 1980, when Kwangju citizens were brutalized and killed by South Korean troops, Haitai fans sang “Tears of Mokp’o” not just to cheer for the team but also to vent their discontent as people of the region. Originally released in 1935, “Tears of Mokp’o” was a popular love song, but it soon acquired anti-colonial associations against Japanese rule. In this talk, I examine the ways in which memories of colonial oppression and exploitation were intertwined with the recent traumas of Kwangju in singing “Tears of Mokp’o.” I argue that the dual usage of the song was related with its historical interpretation as well as the persona of its singer, Yi Nan-yŏng, but that Haitai fans’ public performances fundamentally transformed the resistance anthem into a baseball fight song as a way to demonstratetheir spirit of regional insubordination.