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Veteran folk singer Seo Yoo-seok returns to stage

79-year-old singer sings message of solidarity and peace

March 28, 2024 - 13:53 By Lee Jung-youn
Seo Yoo-seok sings during a press conference held in Seoul Citizen Hall's Baseurak Concert Hall, Jung-gu, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Korea's first-generation folk singer Seo Yoo-seok has released new songs, expressing a strong will to continue making music.

Seo, 79, performed three new songs during a press conference held in Seoul Citizen Hall's Baseurak Concert Hall, Jung-gu, Seoul on Wednesday, with power and emotion that belied his years.

The first new song, "Why," calls for hope and solidarity. Seo said the lyrics reminded him of the several ongoing political and armed conflicts worldwide, including the Israel-Hamas war, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and North Korea's repeated provocations. "There is not a single day that we are free from anxiety and fear. I sang this song hoping for the day when the whole world can smile together."

The song would probably be a tremendous hit if it were sung by the popular trot singer Lim Young-woong, Seo said, adding that he is well aware of the generation gap between those in the audience and him. "As I'm almost 80 years old, the song might not receive much attention compared to the songs of younger singers. Nonetheless, I'll continue to work hard to convey the song's message."

"You, There, Have You Been Old," which has straightforward lyrics and a cheerful melody that depicts the reality of those getting older, was written and composed by Seo. The song should have been unveiled in 2015 but was not released due to a lawsuit against the record labels which sold the song without permission. The civil lawsuit is still underway, according to Seo.

The last song, "Thoughts," is a remake of the song of the same title released in the 1980s.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Seo suffered a stroke, which left his right hand slightly paralyzed. After years of rest, he has recovered enough to play the guitar.

Seo vowed to continue a more active career as a singer, starting with a concert in Mapo-gu, Seoul, on May 8. He will then tour several cities across the country.

Seo was born in Seoul in January 1945, just months before the liberation of Korea from Japan's colonial rule. He began his musical career in the late 1960s, creating several legendary songs such as "Time Passing" and "Arirang Alone." Seo also deejayed various radio programs for over 35 years.