Have you ever heard Pansori, a traditional song of Korea? It may be unfamiliar to foreign students. The word ‘Pansori’ is usually translated into English as ‘a solo opera.’ As the word’s meaning suggests, Pansori involves a single actor who performs all of the characters’ moves and lines in front of an audience. In order to finish a 3-hour-long performance, not only mental but also physical endurance is required by the artist. In the May Issue, CAH met Kim Jung-min, a Pansori artist who has performed 3-hour plays 12 times in 5 years. Kim is an enthusiastic artist who takes pride in her field and is loyal to her craft. Now, let’s learn more about Kim’s love for Pansori.
CAH: You are known for completing the whole course of the Pansori ‘Heungbo-ga,’ which is the 5th National Intangible Cultural Heritage. What does it mean to both you and society?
Kim: For me personally, I think it is a framework that increased my level of perfection. In terms of society, it could serve as an opportunity to pass on Pansori, even if it is not a popular genre.
CAH: I wonder why you started Gugak?
Kim: My maternal grandfather was a Pansori artist. Due to him, my mother was also talented in Pansori. My mother, however, stopped her career as a Pansori artist because my father was opposed to it. With her desire to achieve what she did not achieve, I started to learn Gayageum, a traditional instrument, when I was in fifth grade in elementary school. The Gayageum, which is usually played sitting down, is rather static. But as I loved being active, expressing, acting and singing like a boiling tone in the Pansori, I started my career as a Pansori artist.
CAH: As a person who is known for protecting the sound of Korea, what do you think of the unique attraction of the Pansori in modern music culture?
Kim: Sometimes I fall into a slump. It is when I fall short of a hit song in Korea despite the huge amount of time and effort I put in. To overcome the slump, I come up with our ancestors who wrote songs fitted to the scene properly. If the lyrics are low, the notes are low. When you look carefully, you can find out the songs are beautifully crafted inside the five pansori. It is only possible in a Pansori as it is really a one-man opera. For this reason, people who know this attraction will say that it is the best music in the world. I am also one of the people who cannot get over in it.
CAH: Facing a lot of people on stage is difficult for many people. It makes them feel nervous. What is a strategy you use to perform in front of a lot of people?
KIM: Whenever I am on a stage, I always act as I practiced on stage. On the other hand, I always do it like a real play in practice. When I was a shy, young girl, I tried to overcome my shyness by performing when I walked down the street. When you make eye-contact with countless people, they will be embarrassed. By doing this, I could solve my problem by myself. I sang and talked to people during my training methods. Overcoming shyness through these exercises was important. There really must be 100% confidence when I make something out on the stage. I have to practice until my confidence level reaches to 100%. Still, pouring 80% of what I have prepared is still a lot on the stage. Nevertheless, I keep practicing to pour out 100%.
CAH: You were a teacher at the Gugak Arts High School in Seoul from 1991 to 1998. How did your teaching career help you in your career?
Kim: Before entering the Gugak high school, I had a test at the National Changgeuk Company of Korea (NCCK). At that time, Kim So-hye, who passed away, said that she wanted me to go in there and to play a role as the main character, so I applied and got accepted. At that time, although it was good to play the main character on stage, I thought I could be a frog in the well. After that, I wrote a letter and resigned. It was a very big decision at the time and I reflected on myself right after I quit NCCK. While teaching students at the high school, I thought about how to teach students who do not know the dialect (as the pansori has many Southern Korea accents). And in the case of students with stage phobia, I considered how to teach them how to overcome it. I was worried a lot about these things. And this agony seems to be a lot of help in society now. Especially when I lectured on a variety of TV shows, it seemed that research and testing of students at that time helped me bring our music to the public's attention very easily.
CAH: You were taught by famous pansori artists, Ahn Bi-chei, Kim Wol-ha, Park Gwi-hee, and so on. It seems to be a tough process. Tell me the difficulties at the time and how the experience helped you later.
Kim: It was too difficult to acquire different vocalization methods in Kyunggi Minyo, Namdo Minyo, and Seo-do Minyo, which were all different fields. In particular, many masters wanted me to be their student, but I did not regard them as my masters. For this reason, it has been very difficult in terms of factionalism and jealousy. Now, Han Song-hee was my master, but in the past, I refused to do it because I did not want to grow up fast with teachers on my back. The way was difficult, but I did not want to get my teacher's honor quickly without making any efforts. Even if it was slow and difficult, I thought I have to go slow. Looking back on my youth, I think it was a lot of hard work to go back without getting what was readily available.
CAH: There are various sound genealogy in Pansori, including Gangsanje, Seopyeonje, and Dongpyeonje. Among them, why you are attracted to Dongpyeonje?
Kim: I like all the sounds of pansori. What I first learned were Gangsanje and Seopyeonje. These two styles have a lot of finesses, like the popular music in modern society. Unlike these, Dongpyeonje also does not have a lot of finesse, which requires a power of abdominal strength. Above all, the decisive reason is that I had a dream in which a person with a very tough sound, asked "Don't you do my sound?" I found out what that sound was, and it turned out to be Dongpyeonje, and the person who appeared in my dream was Park Nok-joo, a master of my master, Han Song-hee. After that, I took Han Song Hee as my master. On May 25, I will perform for the restoration of Park's birthplace. Given this, I think I have a unique life. One might think why that is possible when one looks at it, but I finally decided to transfer to Dongpyeonje. In fact, it was hard to change fields, but I have been working hard for the past 10 years and have continued giving 3 hour-long performances. Dongpyeonje is fascinating. Its strict end is so attractive.
CAH: You released your first full-length album, "HEUNGBOGA," last August. I heard that you did it yourself without a single prompter when you were working on the album. How could you complete the 3 hour-long pansori?
Kim: Simply put, it is possible if you complete a 3 hour-long play every day. In fact, when I released an album after starring a movie, I promised not to release an album until the completion of my music increased. In fact, I heard that it was the first album with a 3 hour-long completed version of Pansori. At that time, I worried whether I had ruined the reputation of my master, Park Nok-joo, and other masters. And I practiced a full completed play every day. That was difficult.
CAH: You completed your 12th 3 hour-long play this February. What does that mean to you?
Kim: I think it is my life. I feel like my life is in this complete play. It seems that I scribbled the sound of my ancestors, hardship of life and joy and made it into a finished version. Therefore, it is meaningful to me.
CAH: We have heard that you donate regularly not only to Chung-Ang University, but also to Severance Hospital and so on. We wonder how you started donating.
KIM: I had set a goal to study hard without combining my music and money for five years in order to perfect the sound of the east province and put it on stage. However, the organizers said they would pay for my performance. At that time, interest in pediatric cancer socially rose. Therefore, I made a full donation to Severance Hospital's pediatric cancer ward. After that, I saw children who had surgery and grow up healthy through the money. I thought I had not only donated, but also gained more. Thank you for being able to see the children smiling brightly. I felt better because of the thought that I had done this through my music.
In addition, it is quite difficult for students to make enough money to keep living through Korean traditional music, so I made a donation to Chung-Ang University. Korean traditional music, Gukak, has become a music that improves with age rather than popular music. Therefore, juniors who play this music are having a lot of difficulties. I also went through those days, so I made a donation in the hope of being helpful to these juniors. My teacher, Korean traditional musician, Park Hee-eun used to help students by donating money. At that time, she gave me a ride and said, 'Some people said you look so much like me. Study harder.' Through this, I had thought that I would become a senior who would help many juniors when I grew up. This is also one of the reasons for making donations to CAU.
CAH: What would you recommend students at Chung-Ang University to try before graduation?
Kim: Whatever it is, go crazy. Go crazy about something as if you really have no care about anything except it. Then there will be enlightenment in all fields. Youth does not seem to be just earned. I think CAU students can overcome any moment if they have the confidence that they can do anything because they have youth. All experience, such as pouring out passion or feeling sad when you are young, seems to be helpful.
CAH: What is your goal?
Kim: My first goal is perfection. I want to communicate with the audience by pouring everything I have on stage perfectly. Second, just as many Western music have gained popularity, I hope the time will come for Korean traditional music, pansori, to become popular with people around the world.
CAH: We would like to ask you one last thing to say to the Chung-Ang family who are watching this interview.
Kim: It moves my heart just to listen to the word "Chung-Ang". Chung-Ang University has produced a lot of great seniors, and many juniors will continue to follow them. Based on the value of "Faith," I hope the seniors will lead the juniors and the juniors will follow them to become even greater Chung-Ang family.
Chung-Ang Herald is honored to have met Kim Jung-min, a senior with unrivaled affection for Korean classical music, for Chung-Ang University, and for CAU juniors. Her attitude to life, her endless effort to achieving success in her field, and her widespread social influence is inspiring. We appreciate Kim Jung-min’s support and encouragement of students at Chung-Ang University, and we hope she is able to fulfill her dream of promoting the sound of Korea more widely. The Chung-Ang Herald will cheer for our proud alumni, Kim Jung-min.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >