Arirang is a song that pulls at many Koreans' heartstrings. The folk song with soothing melodies and poetic lyrics is frequently sung by Koreans to deliver sad feelings of separation from families or loved ones. The traditional song, regarded as Korea's unofficial national anthem, is also chanted to express other feelings such as joy and happiness. In 2012, Arirang was listed in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
About 40 members of Türkiye's defense forces showcased Arirang and Turkish march songs at the War Memorial of Korea on October 11. "Although we present march music in wartime, we play folk songs and other types of music during peacetime," Colonel Aydın Erdem, the leader of Mehteran, told Aju Korea Daily after the performance. "We decided to play a Korean song as we respect your culture," the commander of the Army band said during the interview.
"Mehteran is the oldest military band in the world. It was part of the Ottoman Empire's armed forces," said Salih Murat Tamer, the Turkish Ambassador to South Korea. According to the Turkish envoy, the band mostly performed on the battlefields to support other soldiers and intimidate enemies. Tamer added prominent composers including Mozart and Haydn created masterpieces after taking inspiration from the Turkish band specializing in many different genres.
"This will be an opportunity for visitors to appreciate our brother country Türkiye, which took part in the Korean War," War Memorial of Korea's secretary-general Yang Dong-hak said during his welcome speech. During the war, Türkiye deployed 21,212 soldiers to the Korean Peninsula. More than 900 soldiers died during the Korean conflict and the United Nations (UN) Memorial Cemetery in the southern port city of Busan bears 462 Turkish soldiers.
"I was surprised to hear Arirang sung by a foreign band," Kim Dong-jae, a South Korean soldier who visited the museum during his vacation expressed his joy. The 20-year-old Army Corporal, serving in Seoul's defense command, said he was impressed by performers' manly image.
Prior to the event in Seoul, Mehteran performed at the UN cemetery in Busan and in Gyeryong, a southeastern city where South Korea's military headquarters are located. The official diplomatic relationship between South Korea and Türkiye was tied in 1957.
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