Yi Yong-nyeo

Yi Yong-nyeo (1926 – 2013)
born in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea


© Tsukasa Yajima

Yi Yongnyeo was born in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province in Central Korea in 1926.  Her family was poor and from the age of seven she lived as a servant in a stranger’s home.  At fifteen years of age, she was deceived by the proprietress of a drinking house where she worked, and she was taken, by way of Taiwan and Singapore, to Burma, where she was a sexual slave for three years.  Upon returning to Korea she lived in strangers’ homes, day-by-day constantly struggling for survival.

Recently, after living in the House of Sharing for a while she built a small house in the neighborhood where she lives alone.  A self-styled master farmer, she grows an abundance of various vegetables in her fist-sized home garden, and she heads up a large family of rapidly reproducing rabbits and dogs.  When she is in the mood for cards or gossip she comes up to the House of Sharing, loosens up with her favorite soju (Korean vodka) or makkeolli (rice beer), and opens up extended commentaries and complaints on life…and she might start singing, letting her emotional temperament carry her away in a medley like this one.


Composer unknown

Take Care, Busan Harbor (1970)

Music: Son Ro-won
Lyrics: Kim Yongman
Vocal: Baek Ya-seong

© Joshua D. Pilzer 

If in the future you couldn’t take me along
And you had to leave me behind
Then why did you love me?
You just let your affections flow.
Is this only for your sake?
Did only you cry?  No, I cried as well…
No, don’t leave me, you heartless man.

Ah, ah…please take care, Busan harbor
Miss Kim be well, and Miss Lee, farewell
Though I can’t promise to come
Don’t throw away the pure heart of our love, don’t throw it away
Ah, ah…I will come again to see you again, Busan harbor.