After the seminal Morning Dew in 1970, Kim Min Gi (김민기) continued to write artistic songs about the frail but fundamentally good human heart, nature, and elements of Korean folk traditions among others. Evergreens (상록수) was composed in dedication to a newly wed couple in the 80s when he was working with the faceless common laborers. Friend (친구) is said to be about either one of his own friends or a pupil under his charge when he was a high school student, whose life was cut short by an unfortunate accident. With deep messages of soul searching and renewed hope, they have attained a loftiest place in people’s hearts.
Kim Min Gi (김민기) has written numerous songs in the 70s, some of which enjoyed good reception by the public. Yet he never pursued commercial success, or fame and money for himself. As he said in one of his rare interviews recently, his flesh and soul is just averse to such things. He instead dedicates his life to making those sometimes little and sometimes big contributions for the betterment of the Koreans’ lot. Whether or not they make perceptible differences or how his efforts are appreciated by people seems not among his interests, as it simply is his destiny to work at it as long as he can. He is in his own class of artists in this sense, now a legendary figure even though he never wanted that status. He seems to shun anything connected with the power of money, even while struggling under a severe financial stress in his projects. His quest still goes on, and a great many Korean people have a deep respect for him.
Evergreens (상록수) is a song of hope, just as Morning Dew is. It sees hope in the pine trees standing in a barren field naked against the elements and withstanding wind and rain. It talks of the sorrow and hardship of the past, with which most Koreans in his generation are only too familiar, both individually and collectively as a nation. Korea’s recent history was a series of such trials until a few decades ago, dogged by poverty on the one hand and at the mercy of the surrounding foreign powers on the other. Thus Kim is reciting a heartfelt message of hope blessing the couple tying the knot of marriage as well as for the future of the nation that has seen so much suffering. It closes with We will lead ourselves to prevail in the end, which might evoke a feel of a protest song. If it is a protest song, however, it is a protest against the past sorrow and hardship, and the protest is just an act of enlightenment, an act of rising above the constraints imposed by one’s ignorance and other vices to change one’s own destiny. Therein lies Kim’s greatness - he sets his eyes for the greater cause and never stoops to ulterior motives and petty endeavors.
Friend (친구) is a recitation of deeply personal sentiments about the loss of a friend. While missing the friend’s face and voice, the narrator also waxes philosophical about the dividing line between the living and dead, about the truth and sincerity among the masses. With a brooding lyrics and quiet melody, it has been one of those hidden favorites of many Korean people.
It also attests to Kim’s genius in his lyrical and musical prowess in view of the fact that he wrote it while he was still in hight school.
Kim Min Gi has been more than an artist. He is in many senses a leader, a faceless one that leads through the messages of his art and examples of his actions. Many artists and other groups of people have been inspired by him in their lives. Morning Dew and Evergreens have been sung by the masses in many momentous occasions, such as the Lee Han Yul funeral where an estimated million people sang it in unison. Evergreens was one of the favorite songs of the late president Roh, and was sung in dedication at his funeral bringing the congregation together in mourning and solidarity. As he mentioned in an interview, the songs were his creations but they now belong to the Korean people.