Potato Pride 감자자랑 with English translation

The upbeat, rustic melody of this song belies a tragic historic background that continues to cast deep shadows on North Korean society today.

‘Potato Pride’ was the product of a concerted campaign by the North Korean government to promote the virtues of the potato in the face of food insecurity during the mid-1990s- a period which saw the famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, known as the ‘Arduous March’ (고난의 행군; 苦難의 行軍). It was believed that the potato would grow better than other crops in the cold and mountainous terrain of North Korea, particularly in the northeastern provinces. Large numbers of people were allegedly relocated to Yanggang Province in the country’s northeast to work on collective farms specialising in potato agriculture. The most famous of which, the one at Daehongdan, later came to be included as one of the ‘eight sights of the Songun (military-first) (era)’ (선군팔경; 先軍八景)- ‘The Daehongdan Sea of Potato Flowers’ (대홍단의 감자꽃바다).

However, since Korean people have always preferred other crops, especially rice, the government sought to steer them towards the spud using one its most trusted tools- propaganda. Thus, during a certain period in the 90s, there appeared a profusion of references to potatoes in film, TV, art, and music. ‘Potato Pride’ is a fine example, the song’s sole purpose seemingly just to elevate the status of the potato.

For more on North Korea and the potato, see this article from NKnews: http://www.nknews.org/2014/02/in-search-of-miracles-and-substitutes-north-koreas-potato-revolution/

Thankfully, the food situation in recent years appears to have improved greatly, and while life for many in the country may not exactly be affluent, starvation is no longer a problem. See this article by Professor Lankov for more: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/n-korea-myth-starvation-2014319124439924471.html

You can visit the potato farm at Daehongdan on a tour with Tongil Tours.

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Youtube music video with English subtitles:

Potato Pride

In our village an old man

On the day of potato distribution[1]

Layed out a feast on the birthday table

Inviting all to join

Chewy potato tteok[2] and Hamhung cold noodles[3]

Delicious ggwabaegi[4] and potato pancakes,

Potato pride- oh so many

Lost count at thirty

Oh ho ho potato pride

Potato chaltteok[5]– honey flavoured

The grandmothers cluck their tongues[6]

While the children go to and fro

The potato taffy is the best they say

The old man who ate a lot and lived to a ripe old age

Says while emptying a glass of potato liquor

Our world- is oh so good

And in my hometown it’s a potato bumper harvest

Oh ho ho potato pride

In the past people lived poorly

In this far-flung[7] region which

Has today in the embrace of the party become a paradise on earth[8]

Engage in much potato agriculture and live to an old age

Have many children and enjoy the pleasures of life

Sing of the good times

Did the old man from the long-lived family as he dances a dance

Oh ho ho potato pride

Potato pride- many on many

Flowers blossom in our lives

Oh ho ho potato pride

[1] Before the mid-1990s, North Korea had a functioning Public Distribution System (PDS) which allocated basic foodstuffs and other daily necessities to people via distribution centres.

[2] Tteok (떡) is a Korean rice cake made from glutinuous rice flour.

[3] A cold noodle dish somewhat similar to the famous Pyongyang-style cold noodles, but with a potato starch base.

[4] A doughy deep-fried snack sometimes described as a ‘Korean donut’.

[5] A different type of tteok.

[6] Expresses approval.

[7] The original expression literally means ‘dead end’, but this would have sounded too strong in English.

[8] This expression actually comes from the famous Chinese poet Tao Yuanming’s (陶淵明) story ‘The Peach Blossom Spring’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peach_Blossom_Spring).


우라 마을 장수령감

감자분배 받은 날에

생일상을 차려놓고

동네 방네 청했다오

짤깃짤깃 감자떡에 농마국수

맛 좋은 꽈배기에 감자지짐

감자자랑 하도 많아

서른을 세고서 헛갈렸소

어허허 감자자랑

감자찰떡 꿀맛이라

할머니들 혀 차는데

아이들은 들락날락

감자엿이 제일이래

많이 들고 장수하소 장수령감

감자술잔 비우면서 하는 말이

우리 세상 하도 좋아

내 고향 감자도 풍년이요

어허허 감자자랑

옛날에는 사람 못 살

막바지던 이 고장이

오늘에는 당의 품에 무릉도원 되였다오

감자농사 많이 짓고 장수하세

아들딸도 많이 낳아 락을 보세

좋은 세월 노래하며

장수집 령감님 춤을 추네

어허허 감자자랑

감자자랑 많고 많아

우리 생활 꽃이 피네

어허허 감자자랑


우라 마을 長壽令監

감자分配 받은 날에

生日床을 차려놓고

洞네 坊네 請했다오

짤깃짤깃 감자떡에 농마국수

맛 좋은 꽈배기에 감자지짐

감자자랑 하도 많아

서른을 세고서 헛갈렸소

어허허 감자자랑

감자찰떡 꿀맛이라

할머니들 혀 차는데

아이들은 들락날락

감자엿이 第一이래

많이 들고 長壽하소 長壽令監

감자술盞 비우면서 하는 말이

우리 世上 하도 좋아

내 故鄉 감자도 豐年이요

어허허 감자자랑

옛날에는 사람 못 살

막바지던 이 고장이

오늘에는 黨의 품에 武陵桃源 되였다오

감자農事 많이 짓고 長壽하세

아들딸도 많이 낳아 樂을 보세

좋은 歲月 노래하며

長壽집 令監님 춤을 추네

어허허 감자자랑

감자자랑 많고 많아

우리 生活 꽃이 피네

어허허 감자자랑


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