Park In Hee (박인희) is the first major female artist in Korea that brought the purest of full-blown poems, such as Park In Hwan (박인환)’s As Time Goes By (세월이 가면), to mainstream music. Of a sensitive and poetic soul, she performed original and remade songs of exquisite beauty, often based on existing famous poems, infusing her rarefied sensitivities into them to create gems of musical poetry. The songs were thus quietly beautiful and often deeply introspective, or just a moody narration sometimes. They resonated with the poet in the Korean hearts, a people with romantic inclinations. Many Koreans of her generation still remember them with a nostalgic longing.
As Time Goes By
Between The Missed Ones
Park In Hee (박인희, 1945-) came onto the pop music scene in 1971 singing in the duo Toi et Moi (뚜아에무아) with Lee Pil Won (이필원). Virtually the first mixed gender duo in Korea, Toi et Moi was a fresh new act and became quite popular with their quiet and thoughtful folk songs. On the heels of this success, Park went solo recording her own songs while simultaneously gaining popularity as a radio DJ. Her music was primarilly folk songs ranging from cover of foreign and domestic hits, new materials from peer composers, to narrations of existing famous poems. Common to all of them was that they were sung or recited in a quiet whispery style without ever displaying popular music fads or techniques but only with innocent female sensitivities of her own. Aside from the art song tradition which was mainly done by formally trained professionals in academia, she was the trailblazer in bringing serious poems to pop music.
As Time Goes By (세월이 가면) is a widely known poem by Park In Hwan (박인환, 1926-1956) written in 1955 when Korea was still reeling from the effect of the Korean war in 1950.
Although generally thought to be a poet of the modernist trend which de-emphasized display of personal sentiments, his works tended to be about reminiscences and personal quests for a meaning that went on in his mind. The aftermath of Korean war and ensuing uprooted surroundings made him an unhappy soul. He sank himself in booze and other vices, eventually committing suicide in 1956.
The poem As Time Goes By is widely loved by students and lay people alike. It reminisces about the elusiveness of love - how it so often falls short of reaching a full blossom in real life and how it lives forever in people’s hearts like a lasting monument. It uses many objects found in a modern city, such as the street lamp post, a park and a bench in it, together with natural elements like a summer day and falling leaves, to create a wistfully beautiful landscape of a modern life, which is all the more significant considering the rather harsh times that he lived in. It captures the inherent poignancy of the fleeting life, the elusiveness that underlies everyone’s existence in a beautiful language.
Between The Missed Ones (그리운 사람끼리) was released on the second LP album of Toi et Moi and remains one of the best loved songs by them as well as Park’s. With simple lyrics about a couple on life’s journey in their blossoming love, it is typically of Park’s songs showcasing a crystal clear, unsullied voice singing in a quiet measured tone. Although many comparable vocal styles emerged since, she will be remembered as the first one to bring such fresh and elevated poetry to mainstream music.
Park had a fulfilling career in music and as a radio personality throughout the 70s releasing numerous works, then left the pop music world around 1981. She is fondly remembered by the elder generation Koreans whose youth were colored by her music and narrations.