Morning Dew
(아침 이슬)

performed by
Yang Hee-eun (양희은)
lyrics and music by
Kim Min-gi (김민기)
year released
1970
album (Yang Hee-eun)
Yang Hee-eun's Collection of Beautiful Songs
(양희은의 고운 노래 모음), 1970
album (Kim Min-gi)
Kim Min-gi (김민기), 1971
아침 이슬
Morning Dew

긴 밤 지새우고 풀잎마다 맺힌
Like the morning dew after a long weary night
진주보다 더 고운 아침 이슬처럼
Gracing each leaf with a shine finer than pearl's
내 맘의 설움이 알알이 맺힐 때
When sorrows in my heart bead up one by one
아침 동산에 올라 작은 미소를 배운다
I climb on the morning hill to learn a little smile

태양은 묘지 위에 붉게 타오르고
A blazing red sun rising up over the graveyard
한낮의 찌는 더위는 나의 시련일지라
The sweltering heat of the day is only my trials
나 이제 가노라 저 거친 광야에
Here I go now, into the wilderness of badlands
서러움 모두 버리고 나 이제 가노라
Leaving all the sadness behind, here I go now
아침 이슬

긴 밤 지새우고 풀잎마다 맺힌
진주보다 더 고운 아침 이슬처럼
내 맘의 설움이 알알이 맺힐 때
아침 동산에 올라 작은 미소를 배운다

태양은 묘지 위에 붉게 타오르고
한낮의 찌는 더위는 나의 시련일지라
나 이제 가노라 저 거친 광야에
서러움 모두 버리고 나 이제 가노라

Morning Dew

Like the morning dew after a long weary night
Gracing each leaf with a shine finer than pearl's
When sorrows in my heart bead up one by one
I climb on the morning hill to learn a little smile

A blazing red sun rising up over the graveyard
The sweltering heat of the day is only my trials
Here I go now, into the wilderness of badlands
Leaving all the sadness behind, here I go now
best known rendition by Yang Hee-eun
songwriter Kim Min-gi's own version
Yang Hee-euns Beautiful Songs
cover of
Yang Hee-eun's Beautiful Songs, 1971

Morning Dew was a seminal song in many ways. Even though neither the lyricist nor the singer said they had intended it that way, it became a torchlight of a song in the dark years of oppressive dictatorship in South Korea, thanks to its lyrics that brilliantly captures the challenge and calling of the era in two short verses. The youths sang it in rallies after rallies against the government to muster courage and reaffirm solidarity throughout the 70s and 80s, until Korea at last saw true democracy in 1987.

The humble morning dew serves as an inspiring motif for awareness and hope. It might well stand for any valiant cause in human struggles, not the least of which against the fickle mother nature, as sweltering heat and wilderness seem to suggest -- but it undeniably had a particularly poignant effect on the Korean people at the time. The grassroots saw the unmistakable signs of the new movement around them, and many came to realize the new calling of their unique time and place. Their jaded consciousness now crystallized, they made an ascent for the first time. They climbed on the morning hill and found a little smile there.

Kim Min-gi 1 Album
cover of Kim Min-gi 1

In the second verse, the protagonist thrusts himself into the wilderness, where the fight for his cause is taking place, never capitulating no matter how great the forces against him, as he has now discovered a new meaning of the era for him; he is thus ready to leave behind all the sadness of his erstwhile existence. The song ends with a resounding "here I go now", like a thundering declaration.

Thus fought the young people of Korea through the dark days of the old system, and democracy finally came, for us and our posterity to enjoy. And Morning Dew is a towering achievement that best symbolizes this chapter of Korean history.

With all that has transpired, it is an irony of our times that a similar kind of outcries are increasingly heard now after a long period of (allegedly) established democracy. It goes to show that democracy, or anything of value for that matter, needs to be diligently guarded rather than taken for granted and forgotten, as the oft-evoked slogan Freedom Is Not Free tells us.

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Yang Hee-eun (양희은)

Folk singer with a resonant contralto voice who has been a major figure in Korean folk music since the 1970s.

Kim Min-gi (김민기)

Singer-songwriter famous for such seminal works of the 70s and 80s as Morning Dew (아침 이슬) and Evergreen (상록수)