Arirang folk song in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


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Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2013 by Pyongyang Video Company

Arirang is a popular lyrical singing genre transmitted and recreated orally. It exists in multiple traditional forms as well as symphonic and modern arrangements. Arirang typically contains a gentle and lyrical melody, accompanied by the refrain: ‘Arirang, arirang, arariyo, Over the Arirang hill you go’. Arirang songs speak about leaving and reunion, sorrow, joy and happiness. The various categories differ according to the lyrics and melody used; the thirty-six known versions of Arirang have also undergone continuous development. Arirang is performed on various occasions among family, friends and communities, as well as on public occasions and at festivities. Children learn the songs from their parents and neighbours, in school and other settings. Professional art troupes in Pyongyang perform different forms of Arirang, while safeguarding societies play an important role in enacting, preserving and transmitting local versions. Arirang folk songs reinforce social relations, thus contributing to mutual respect and peaceful social development, and help people to express their feelings and overcome grief. They function as an important symbol of unity and occupy a place of pride in the performing arts, cinema, literature and other works of contemporary art.