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English: Patriotic Song

National anthem of South Korea
Former national anthem of North Korea (1947–1948)
LyricsUnknown (probably Yun Chi-ho or Ahn Changho), 1896[1]
MusicAhn Eak-tai, 1936
AdoptedAugust 1948; 75 years ago (1948-08)
Revised RomanizationAegukga

"Aegukga" (Korean애국가; pronounced [ɛːɡuk͈ːa]; lit. "Patriotic Song", Hanja: 愛國歌), often translated as "The Patriotic Song", is the national anthem of the Republic of Korea. It was adopted in 1948, the year the country was founded. Its music was composed in the 1930s and arranged most recently in 2018; its lyrics date back to the 1890s. The lyrics of "Aegukga" were originally set to the music of the Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne" before Ahn Eak-tai composed a unique melody specifically for it in 1936. Before the founding of South Korea, the song, set to the music of "Auld Lang Syne", was sung, as well when Korea was under Japanese rule by dissidents. The version set to the melody composed by Ahn Eak-tai was adopted as the national anthem of the Korean exile government, which existed during Korea's occupation by Japan from the early 1910s to the mid-1940s.

"Aegukga" has four verses, but on most occasions only the first one, followed by the chorus, is sung when performed publicly at events such as baseball games and football matches.


Aegukga literally means "patriotic song". The Encyclopedia of Korean Culture defines "Aegukga" as "the song to wake up the mind to love the country". "Aegukga" in itself is differentiated from a national anthem. While a national anthem or gukga (lit.'country song') is an official symbol of the state, aegukga refers to any song, official or unofficial, that contains patriotic fervor towards its country, such as Hungary's "Szózat" or the U.S. "The Stars and Stripes Forever". However, the nationally designated "Aegukga" plays the role of symbolizing the country.[2][3] In general shorthand, the term aegukga refers to the national anthem of South Korea.[4] Nevertheless, there are still more than ten other extant "Aegukgas" in South Korea.[2]



In the 1890s, the previously established Joseon dynasty began to contact other countries for the first time, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. The meeting with foreign countries ultimately gave rise to nationalism and patriotism, which then created several "Aegugkas.” For instance, works in 1896 include the "Aegukga" created by Na Pil-gun, Han Myung-one, and Lee Yong-mu.[2] On November 21, 1896, scholars from the Pai Chai school sang a version of "Aegukga" at the Independence Gate cornerstone-laying ceremony. However, this song differs from the song sung by the Military Academy in 1898 and from the songs sung on the birthday of the former emperor.[2]

A book from the Korean Empire era in 1900 has a record of a national anthem. It was called the "Korean Empire Aegukga,” or literally the "Anthem of the Greater Korean Empire.” That composition is commonly believed to have been written by Franz Eckert,[2][5] who also arranged the Japanese national anthem. Some people contend that records documenting Franz Eckert's actions show that it was physically impossible for him to write the anthem. It is guessed that the song sung by the Paejae school was the Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne" and that the song sung by the Military Academy is a version of the British song "God Save the Queen.” [2]

The song attributed to Eckert was established by the military in 1902. A version of Eckert's song with different lyrics began to be officially implemented in the schools in 1904. All the schools were forced to sing the version of the song. The policy is thought of as a by-product of the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905 and the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1907.[2]

There are many theories concerning the writer of the currently official lyrics of "Aegukga.” It is most commonly believed that the lyrics were written for the cornerstone-laying ceremony of the Independence Gate in Seoul in 1896 by Yun Chi-ho, a Korean politician,[2][6] but this is disputed.[7] Later, Kim Gu during the Korean government-in-exile era, said to his comrades: "In the March 1st Movement, we had the Taegeukgi and the Aegukga. Why should who wrote it be an issue?" He wrote: "The lyrics and the anthem's spirit are more important than the nature of the lyricist."[8] Other theories name the lyricist as An Chang-ho, Choi Byung-hun, Kim In-sik, Min Yeong-hwan, or some combination of the aforementioned writers. A committee was established in 1955 by the government to determine authorship of the lyrics, on the request of the United States, but it concluded that there was not enough evidence to favor anyone.[9]

Initially, "Aegukga" was sung to the tune of the Scottish folk song "Auld Lang Syne,” which was introduced to Korea by western missionaries. The Provisional Korean Government (1919–1945) in Shanghai, China, adopted it as their national anthem. At a ceremony celebrating the founding of South Korea on 15 August 1948, the Scottish tune was finally replaced by the Finale of "Korea Fantasia", which Ahn Eak-tai had composed in 1936, though its usage with it had been done unofficially for a few years before then.[10] The new "Aegukga" was later adopted by the Presidential Decree of 1948 by the then South Korean President Syngman Rhee.

During official ceremonies until 1987, "Aegukga" was preceded by four ruffles and flourishes, similar to the Taiwanese practice; today the anthem is played following the playing of the presidential honours music.[11]


Since the composer Ahn Eak-tai died in 1965, the copyright for the music was to not expire until at least 2036. Two South Korean professional football clubs were sued by a copyright holders' group for playing this song in December 2003.[12] However, on March 16, 2005, the composer's widow—Lolita Ahn—and her family relinquished all rights to "Aegukga" to the South Korean government.[13] "Aegukga" has since become a public domain song.[14]


In 2018, music director, Park In-young, gave Aegukga a makeover and added brass and woodwind instruments to the arrangement and she said, “while trying not to change Ahn’s original version, we gave it a more modern spin.” For some Koreans Aegukga doesn’t have any impact or hold any special meaning while others stand proud when they hear or sing it and remember the love their ancestors held and the sacrifices they made in their struggle for independence.[15]

For nearly a century, "Aegukga" has been a part of Korean lives to cultivate patriotism and loyalty. Even without any spectators in the wave of the coronavirus pandemic, all sporting events such as pro baseball games start with the song.[16]


Korean original[edit]

Hangul (official) Hangul and Hanja Revised Romanization of Korean

동해 물과 백두산이 마르고 닳도록,
하느님이 보우하사 우리나라 만세.

무궁화 삼천리 화려 강산,
대한 사람 대한으로 길이 보전하세.

남산 위에 저 소나무 철갑을 두른 듯
바람서리 불변함은 우리 기상일세.


가을 하늘 공활한데 높고 구름 없이
밝은 달은 우리 가슴 일편단심일세.


이 기상과 이 맘으로 충성을 다하여
괴로우나 즐거우나 나라 사랑하세.


東海물과 白頭山이 마르고 닳도록,
하느님이 保佑하사 우리나라 萬歲.

無窮花 三千里 華麗 江山,
大韓 사람 大韓으로 길이 保全하세.

南山 위에 저 소나무 鐵甲을 두른 듯
바람서리 不變함은 우리 氣像일세.


가을 하늘 空豁한데 높고 구름 없이
밝은 달은 우리 가슴 一片丹心일세.


이 氣像과 이 맘으로 忠誠을 다하여
괴로우나 즐거우나 나라 사랑하세.


Donghae mulgwa Baekdusani mareugo daltorok
Haneunimi bouhasa urinara manse.

Mugunghwa samcheolli hwaryeo gangsan
Daehan saram daehaneuro giri bojeonhase.

Namsan wie jeo sonamu cheolgabeul dureun deut
Baram seori bulbyeonhameun uri gisang-ilse.


Ga-eul haneul gonghwalhande nopgo gureum eopsi
Balgeun dareun uri gaseum ilpyeondansimilse.


I gisanggwa i mameuro chungseong-eul dahayeo
Goerouna jeulgeouna nara saranghase.


English translations[edit]

Literal English translation Poetic English translation[17]

1st verse
Until that day when Mt. Baekdu is worn away and the East Sea's[a] waters run dry,
Long live our country, protected and aided by Heaven.

Mugunghwa and three thousand ri full of splendid mountains and rivers,
Let us ever maintain as a Great Korea for Great Koreans.

2nd verse
As the pine atop Namsan Peak stands firm, unchanged through wind and frost,
as if wrapped in armour, so shall our resilient spirit.


3rd verse
The autumn skies are void and vast, high and cloudless;
the bright moon is like our heart, undivided and true.


4th verse
With this spirit and this mind, let us give all loyalty,
in suffering or joy, to love our nation.


1st verse
Until the East Sea’s waves are dry, Mt. Baekdu worn away,
God watch o’er our land forever, our Korea manse.

Rose of Sharon, thousand miles of range and river land;
Guarded by her people, ever may Korea stand.

2nd verse
Like that Mt. Namsan armoured pine, standing on duty still,
wind or frost, unchanging ever, be our resolute will.


3rd verse
In autumn’s, arching evening sky, crystal and cloudless blue;
be the radiant moon our spirit, steadfast, single and true.


4th verse
With such a will, such a spirit, loyalty, heart and hand,
Let us love, come grief, come gladness, this our beloved land.



  1. ^ South Korea, and the Korean language in general, refers to the Sea of Japan as East Sea.


  1. ^ (CHEONGWADAE), 청와대. "대한민국 청와대". Blue House. Archived from the original on 2015-06-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "애국가". Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  3. ^ "애국가[愛國歌]". Doosan Corporation. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "애국-가愛國歌". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  5. ^ "대한제국애국가". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  6. ^ "South Korea – Aegukga". NationalAnthems.me. Archived from the original on 2012-04-24. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  7. ^ "[필진]끝나지 않은 애국가 작사자 논란 Piljin] Unfinished national anthem lyricist controversy". The Hankyoreh (in Korean). 2005-11-29. Retrieved 2023-06-24.
  8. ^ 팽귄기자. "대학토론 배틀 – 좋은 투자의 조건 -". demo-press.optian.co.kr. Archived from the original on 2020-07-22. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  9. ^ "안익태가 애국가를 처음 만들었다?". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: TheKhanate (11 June 2016). "National anthem of South Korea(first recording 1942)(alternative version):"애국가"(Aegukga)" – via YouTube.
  11. ^ 강, 민구 (10 February 2018). "1984년 국군의날기념식 (건군36주년)". Archived from the original on 2019-11-10 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "애국가 틀때도 저작권료 내야돼?". The Hankyoreh. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "애국가 작곡가 안익태 48주기 추모식". News1 Korea. 16 September 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  14. ^ "Republic of Korea – National Anthem". Internet Archive. 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  15. ^ "The Story Behind Aegukga". Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Norway. June 5, 2020.
  16. ^ "Ordeal of 'Aegukga'". The Korea Times. May 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "Country. Anthems". Archived from the original on 2021-05-22. Retrieved 2020-05-27.

External links[edit]