Write A Letter on The Cloudy Autumn Sky (흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써), Hyehwa-dong (혜화동)

Cloudy Sky 1

Write A Letter on A Cloudy Autumn Sky (흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써) and Hyehwa-dong (혜화동) are songs from the folk group Dongmulwon’s (동물원) second album. Dongmulwon was formed in 1988 with the help of Sanulim’s Kim Chang Wan. It was a rare band producing music part time as a side project while most members kept their full time profession. They strove to capture the good, innocent side of life and gave us several beautifully crafted songs about youthful idealism and fuzzy nostalgia in the 80s and 90s. They showed us that simple, unsullied goodness can be beautiful too.

흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써


비가 내리면 음, 나를 둘러싸는
시간의 숨결이 떨쳐질까

비가 내리면 음, 내가 간직하는
서글픈 상념이 잊혀질까

난 책을 접어놓으며 창문을 열어
흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써

음, 잊혀져간 꿈들을 다시 만나고파
흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써

바람이 불면 음, 나를 유혹하는
안일한 만족이 떨쳐질까

바람이 불면 음, 내가 알고 있는
허위의 길들이 잊혀질까

난 책을 접어놓으며 창문을 열어
흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써

음, 잊혀져간 꿈들을 다시 만나고파
흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써

Write A Letter on The Cloudy Autumn Sky


If it starts raining, um, will I break free
From the stifling breath of time around me

If it starts raining, um, will I forget
The sad thoughts I harbor in my mind

Closing my book and opening the window
I write a letter on the cloudy autumn sky

Um, to get back with long forgotten dreams
I write a letter on the cloudy autumn sky

If the wind blows, um, will I break free
From the temptation of lazy contentedness

If the wind blows, um, will I forget
The ways of deceit that I know so well

Closing my book and opening the window
I write a letter on the cloudy autumn sky

Um, to get back with long forgotten dreams
I write a letter on the cloudy autumn sky

혜화동


오늘은 잊고 지내던 친구에게서 전화가 왔네
내일이면 멀리 떠나간다고
어릴 적 함께 뛰놀던 골목길에서 만나자 하네
내일이면 아주 멀리 간다고

덜컹거리는 전철을 타고 찾아가는 그 길
우린 얼마나 많은 것을 잊고 살아가는지
어릴 적 넓게만 보이던 좁은 골목길에
다정한 옛 친구 나를 반겨 달려오는데

어릴 적 함께 꿈꾸던 부푼 세상을 만나자 하네
내일이면 멀리 떠나간다고
언젠가 돌아오는 날 활짝 웃으며 만나자 하네
내일이면 아주 멀리 간다고

덜컹거리는 전철을 타고 찾아가는 그 길
우린 얼마나 많은 것을 잊고 살아가는지
어릴 적 넓게만 보이던 좁은 골목길에
다정한 옛 친구 나를 반겨 달려오는데

우린 얼마나 많은 것을 잊고 살아가는지
우린 얼마나 많은 것을 잊고 살아가는지

Hyehwa-dong


Today I received a call from a friend I had forgotten about
Telling me he is going a long way off tomorrow
He wanted to see me in the alleyway we used to play as kids
Saying he will be gone a long long way off tomorrow

Now I am on my way to the old alley on a creaky subway train 
Thinking about how we live out of touch with so many things 
In the narrow alley which looked so big when we were small
My good old friend comes running to me so happy to see me

Says we better go see the wonderful world we dreamed about 
As he is going a long way off tomorrow
Says we will meet with a big smile when he returns someday
As he will be gone a long long way off tomorrow

Now I am on my way to the old alley on a creaky subway train 
Thinking about how we live out of touch with so many things 
In the narrow alley which looked so big when we were small
My good old friend comes running to me so happy to see me

Ah, the way we live losing touch with so many things 
Look at how we live out of touch with so many things


Hyehwa Dong 1
Hyehwa Dong 2
Hyehwa Dong 3
Donmulwon 1

The whole project started as a group of young music lovers regularly got together to sing and play music for fun. Kim Chang Gi (김창기, 1960-), Park Gi Young (박기영), Yu Jun Yul (유준열), and Kim Kwang Seok (김광석) who would later become famous as a solo singer were the early members. They caught the attention of Sanullim’s famed and experienced leader Kim Chang Wan who was interested in promoting new musical acts at the time. With Kim’s guidance they finally produced a debut album in 1988 to good critical reviews and a surprising sales as well. They followed suit with a second album which was even better and solidified their name as an independent, ideal-minded band appealing to the sensitivities of students and the young generation. They stood out as singer songwriters too, most of the members contributing their own songs.

Write A Letter on The Cloudy Autumn Sky, written by Kim Chang Gi and sung by Kim Kwang Seok, was a substantial hit. It is a typical Dongmulwon fare singing about a young man’s musings as he searches for the right true-to-himself path in the midst of all the meaningless vagaries and superficial temptations of life. Kim Chang Gi, known for compositions of innocent and nostalgic sentiments, likens his quest for ideals to writing a letter on the cloudy autumn sky, an evocative metaphor that resonated well with the listeners. Kim Kwang Seok on his part gives a memorable vocal performance on the song. After his untimely death, this song was chosen by his fellow singers for a tribute to his legacy.

Kim Chang Gi 1

Hyehwa-dong, another Kim Chang Gi song, is quietly moving with an introspective narrative and idealist angst. The title is a name of one of the dongs of Seoul, an administrative unit of Korean cities comprised of dozens of neighborhoods and smaller than a district. Hyehwa-dong is an old residential area where the traditional middle class face of Seoul has been preserved rather well. With a great many small alleyways meandering through brick house neighborhoods, the place, average in most aspects, seems to bring nostalgia to people’s mind. The narrator receives a call from his old friend who was going a long way off the next day. They agree to meet in the old alleyway in Hyehwa-dong where they used to play together as a boy. On his way there he thinks about his life with a regret that he has been so swept up by the daily demands of making a living that he was out of touch with many things dear to him, such as his friend he had forgotten about. In a warm, quaintly inviting melody in Kim Chang Gi’s innocent, straight voice and an undulating organ that touches your heart, it relates one of the poignant sentiments most of us seem to harbor about our lives and relationships. A beautiful and nostalgic song which happens to be my favorite Dongmulwon song too.

As members went back to their full time profession, Dongmulwon went through many changes in their lineup. Kim Kwang Seok left the group first because he wanted a full time solo singing career. Kim Chang Gi quit later to work full time a as a doctor, followed by some others. Yet the group still performs to this day after all the changes. It is one unique band that aspired to the purest kind of music, and only such music, shunning all extraneous elements.

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