I later stumbled across The Folk Crusaders' (ザ・フォーク・クルセダーズ) Japanese cover of the song, "Imjin Gawa" (イムジン河), on Youtube, which contained an interesting discussion in the comments that brought my attention to the following story. The day before that single was to go on sale in February 1968, it was shelved and eventually blacklisted from being broadcast on air for nearly 20 years until 1987 when the blacklisting law was removed in Japan. The controversy turned it into a cult classic in the live scene, while the public hunted for any available recordings. The forces involved in this incident were Chosen Soren (朝鮮総連), the association of North Korean residents in Japan, and Toshiba Records. The issue is rather heated in terms of politics and the question of whether the band should’ve covered this song in the first place. It's a fascinating story overall and was eventually adapted (and fictionalized) into a 2004 Japanese film “Pacchigi!” (パッチギ!...박치기!...Break Through!), which I ended up watching earlier this week as a support for this post.
|The 1968 cover, courtesy of http://plaza.rakuten.co.jp/tmatsumoto|
“Imjin River” was scheduled to become the band’s second single but a couple of complications halted its release. Its original creators were not acknowledged in the credits initially despite this being a cover. Takeshi Matsuyama (松山猛), who also wrote “Kaettekita Yopparai”, was credited as the sole lyricist and Kato as the arranger. The composer field just said “Korean Traditional”. Nor sure who was responsible for this hiccup, but it’s obvious that Toshiba Records wished to obscure the origins of the song for political reasons. Pak Se Yeong (박세영), the writer of DPRK’s national anthem, wrote “Imjin River” in 1957 to express people’s sorrow over the division of Korea, while the second verse also praises the country’s communal farms as an example of their self-reliance during the crisis. Matsuyama translated only the first verse of the original version that describes the Imjin River and added own lyrics for the other two verses. The composer was Ko Jonghang (고종환). Kato tweaked the arrangement by making it more pentatonic. Days before the single was to go on sale, Chosen Soren contacted Toshiba demanding that they credit Pak and Ko as creators and keep the lyrics true to the North Korean version. The label was willing to grant the first request but that meant that they were acknowledging North Korea’s presence in a Japanese product and giving a share of their money to its songwriters. Given that the two countries have had a very messy relationship, perhaps the safer route was to pretend that the single didn’t exist in the first place.
|2002 issue cover|
Lastly, I would like to thank Oliver Dew for his wonderful article in the “Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema”, “Pacchigi, the Imjin River incident and ‘1968’: transmedia history telling”. I referred to the information in there extensively while writing this entry.