조용필의 노래와 맹자적 전통


Cho Yong Pil's Songs and Mencius Tradition in Korea


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Korean Superstar Cho Yong Pil is a ‘singer of meta-genre’ from the viewpoint of various music genres which he writes and sings. We may also say that he is a ‘singer of the Supreme Ultimate(t'ai-chi)’ in the sense of ‘non-chi being t'ai-chi’(無極而太極). He has not only inherited the tradition of Korean music, but also absorbed the popular elements of western music and created his own unique style mixing and melting all the elements. This research is an inquiry into the musical backgrounds and philosophical roots of the songs by Cho by analysing his lyrics in light of Mencius' thought. Korean people have cherished the thought of Mencius for long time and invested it with their heartstrings and emotions. Mencius' main idea is that human nature endowed by ‘Heaven’ is good and as pure as the heart of infants is. It is called the theory of ‘the original goodness of human nature’. Everyone has to cultivate his mind continuously by reducing and overcoming selfishness and greed and to rehabilitate ‘human nature’ if lost. Then every human being takes root in ‘Heaven’(or God) and is connected each other to be ‘one’ through the root. The idea is called ‘the union of Heaven and humanity’. The point is that every individual is not separated from each other, but has one root shared with all other individuals. Understanding this, we can recover our original nature. Seeking lost mind and ‘serving Heaven’ leads to the real world paradise where all the people enjoy everything together and be happy as harmonious as an excellent orchestra. That is the key to the throne of the righteous government with ‘the rule of right’ instead of ‘the rule of might’, according to Mencius. Ideal is reality in Confucius-Mencius tradition. Then the ‘ideal-real’ world ruled by itself could be real as it has been. But men make mistake of understanding that the Nature is not real precisely because his(her) own greed functions as something like a wall between the Nature and himself(herself). Mencius emphasized that the practice of love(humanity) must start with the family and expand it to the world. Cho covers various kinds of themes such as dream, the world of children's heart, friendship and nature including love and separation. This analysis tells that most of the songs come from ‘pure heart’, not from ‘selfishness’. This means that humanity and heaven are not separated in his songs and the songs seek to be at the stage at least. For example, Cho's dream songs represent the dreams which exist in real world and should be real, premised on the thought that every human being is infinite. His songs on the world of children's heart lead us to some ‘infantalizing experience’. He excludes themes such as flirting, passion, temptation and wooing which are to appeal directly to five senses in oder to seek interests. The crucial point, his creativity aside, is that Cho as a longrun outstanding superstar always stays in ‘centrality’ and has shown it to the people timely whatever genre and theme he sings, acclimatizing himself to new surroundings as the times change. ‘Centrality’ is more important than ‘commonality’ in the tradition. Even if his ideas were well in advance of the age, he would try to read and represent ‘the people's mind’ staying in ‘centrality’ while not simply to play to the gallery. This means his songs are the expression of the people. Cho says “Music is the expression of something in my mind”. The most important in Mencius tradition is the challenge that the singer restores the human nature of compassion and righteousness by ‘enveloping his or her mind to the utmost’. Cho is “the only Korean singer whose songs are sung and heard with equal enthusiasm in the elementary schools as well as in the senior citizens centers.” This shows why he is ‘the national superstar’ with the widest possible range of popularity. In this mundane world of putting interests first, everyone is forced to live as ‘an atomized individual’ and feels lonely in spite of affluence. Interests breed more interests. People have no way of feeling to be ‘one’. This era could be characterized as the age of ‘the rule of might’, not of ‘the rule of right’. It is predictable that bestiality replaces humanity under the rule of might. The Cho Yong Pil phenomenon should be defined as an ‘ideal-reality’ of the rule of right and practically approaching the stage in the world imbued with Mencius tradition. That is the conclusion of this study and it is a process of ‘enveloping the researcher's mind to the utmost’.


1. 왜 맹자의 틀로 연구하는가.
 2. 맹자 사상의 체계
 3. 조용필 노래와 천인(天人)관계
  (1) 꿈과 현실
  (2) 동심
  (3) 애정
 4. 결론


  • 홍호표 Hopyo Hong. 동아일보사 국장ㆍ공연예술학박사


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