Korean Folksong 2: Dong, Dong, Dongdaemun

Entry 16: 


Original: 동, 동, 동대문을 열어라,

남, 남, 남대문을 열어라,

12시가 되면은

문을 닫는다.


Dong, dong, dong-dae-mon-eul yul-uh-lah

Nam, nam, nam-dae-moon-eul yul-uh-rah

12 shi-ga dwae-myun-eun

Moon-eul dad-neun-da

Full Translation: 

Open the east, east, east great gate. 

Open the south, south, south great gate. 

When the clock strikes 12

The gates are closed. 

2) My Korean grandmother shared this song with me because it was associated with a game she played in elementary school. She said it was one of the things she looked forward to most everyday because it gave her a break to have fun in between discipline and learning. 

3) This performance was actually done by my grandmother and mother together. My grandmother sang the lyrics, and my mother, being a pianist, improvised an accompaniment along with the melody.

4) This song is based off of a Korean children’s game in which two people form the “Dongdaemun gates” by making an arch with their arms while they sing the song. People keep circling through the gate until the song ends – the last two people who fail to make it through become the new “gate.” Both the East and South gates were major protectors of Seoul’s Royal Palace during the Joseon Dynasty. This song has its charm in that the idea of historical architecture which is hundreds of years old has been preserved and transformed into a game that is still played to this day. Folklore has the idea of creating great contrast – the gates were seen as a sacred protector that preserved Seoul during many grave invasions, but they are now referred to in a highly jovial context.