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  • Writer's pictureBright Wisdom

Korean National Anthem (애국가 : Aegukga)

Updated: May 19

애국가 pronounced as ae-guk-ga, literally means 'the song of love for the country.'

애 (ae) means love

국 (guk) means a country

가 (ga) means a song

Aegukga is something I used to sing without giving much thoughts to, like you sing at school or at some ceremonies. But again, as I post this, I am very happy to go over the lyrics of the Korean National Anthem and I can see how well it depicts Korean spirit and the love of the country.

First verse

동해물과 백두산이 마르고 닳도록 하느님이 보우하사 우리 나라 만세

Until the day when the waters of the East Sea run dry and Mount Baekdu is worn away,

God protect and preserve our nation; Hurray to Korea

Korea is a peninsula which means it's surrounded by the sea. All three sides (the west, south and east) are oceans and they are called the West Sea, South Sea and East Sea.

Mount Baekdu is the highest mountain, an active volcano, that is located in the border of China and North Korea. It has a long history of cultural and political significance and considered as a sacred place in Korean folklore.

So, when the lyrics say "until the East Sea run dry and Mount Baekdu is work away," it really means for eternity.

Korea East Sea
the East Sea

백두산 Mount Baedu and the lake
백두산 천지 Mount Baedu and the lake


Refrain (it repeats after each verse)

무궁화 삼천리 화려 강산 대한 사람 대한으로 길이 보전하세

Three thousand Li of splendid rivers and mountains,

covered with mugunghwa blossoms.

Great Korean people,

Stay true to the Great Korean way!

Li in the lyrics is a Korean tranditional unit of measurements, a unit of distance. 1 Li is roughly about 400 meters or 0.25 miles. It is no longer commonly used in Modern Korea.

Mugunghwa is the national flower of Korea which has the meaning of "eternity"

Mugunghwa, the rose of Sharon, Korean National Flower
Mugunghwa, the rose of Sharon, Korean National Flower


Second Verse

남산위에 저 소나무 철갑을 두른 듯 바람 서리 불변함은 우리 기상일세

As the pine atop the near mountain stands firm, unchanged through wind

and frost, as if wrapped in armour, so shall our resilient spirit

Pine tree (소나무= sonamu) is a common type of tree found in Korea and is known for their distinctive long, green needles and strong wood. In Korea, pine trees are often associated with longevity and it is a symbol of strength and resilience.

Korean Pine Tree 소나무
Korean Pine Tree 소나무


Third Verse

가을 하늘 공활한데 높고 구름없이 밝은 달은 우리 가슴 일편 단심일세

The autumn sky is void and vast, high and cloudless;

the bright moon is our heart, undivided and true

Korea's geographical location gives it four distinctive seasons. Until I got to stay in some of the southeast countries where there is only one season, I didn't fully appreciate the beauty of experiencing four seasons. It is a blessing to the changes in nature that come with the different seasons.

In particular, the autumn sky in Korea is vast and clear, and the Korean full moon festival and Thanksgiving, called Chuseok, is celebrated during this season.

Bright Full Moon 밝은 달
bright moon 밝은 달


Fourth Verse

이 기상과 이 마음으로 충성을 다하여 괴로우나 즐거우나 나라 사랑하세

With this spirit and this mind, give all loyalty,

in suffering or in joy, to the love of country

Here is a Youtube video of the full verses of the Korean National Anthem. Please enjoy the Aegukga and the views of Korea shown in the video.

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