Migrant Worker’s Music Project 2001~2002

Mixed material, Music production and Music CD and band concert, project archive solo exhibition, 2002

” We, local people, might have proceeded with various projects for migrant workers in Korea from the idea that they are those to be protected and often without consideration for their cultural desires. The question has motivated me to launch the migrant workers’ music project. I wanted to present an alternative rather than criticizing as an outsider.” – Park Kyong Ju

Exhibited Work From The Solo Exhibition ‘Migrant workers music project’ @ ssamzie space in seoul, 2002

Supported By Arts Council Korea, Ssamzie Space, Seoul Foreign Workers’ Center

A commemorative album release performance held at Ssamzie Space along with ark Kyong Ju Solo’s project archive exhibition ‘Migrant Woker’s Music Project What is Life’, 2002 Copyright of all images Ⓒ Park Kyong Ju

Migrant Workers’ Music Project (2001-2003)

The difference between ‘Migrant Workers’ Music Project-What is life’ from other works in the past was ‘working together:’ In the past, I met and interviewed them as an artist. The reasons why I chose the field of ‘music’ was two: first, it is easy to approach the public than other forms of arts do; second, I believed that the distribution of a music CD would bring a bigger wavelength in society. Cultures of migrant workers remained underground in Korea. While their ‘illegal’ residence status in Korea has been one of the reasons, I also think that Korean society, culturally not diversified yet, failed to assimilate the cultures of migrant workers into the mainstream, leaving them underground among the underground. The purposes of the project are to fulfill the ‘cultural desires’ of migrant workers themselves and at the same time to show the cultural capacity of migrant workers to Koreans. I understood that such efforts would correct the public’s cultural bias against migrant workers.

For the project, different migrant workers wrote lyrics, professional songwriters composed music, and the migrant workers’ music band, Eureka, played the songs. ‘Eureka,’ an independent music band of migrant workers, was scouted during the project. Members of the band, working in the different fields of Korean industries for the past several years, had practiced music on weekends and performed on different occasions for their ethnic community. Eureka, not having their song at the time of scouting, could advance the levels of their musical completeness when they composed their songs and had a chance to make their music CD as participants in the project. The music CD of ‘What is Life,’ was completed on December 2002 and copies of it have been distributed to different migrant workers’ organizations in Korea through the ‘Joint Committee for Migrant Workers in Korea’ and were released at various internet music CD shopping malls. The official debut concert of Eureka, in commemoration of the completion of the music CD, was also held at ‘Baram,’ Ssamzie Space on December 17, 2002. Through the ‘Migrant Workers’ Music Project’ including producing a music CD for migrant workers and a debut concert of the band, Eureka, I assisted migrant workers in Korea to sing ‘their’ songs in ‘their’ voices.

The music video, “What is Life,” shows two images of members of Eureka, in the same scenes; their performances on stages and working images at workplaces. The images were recorded in a documentary style to the title song of ‘What is Life.’

-Park Kyong Ju

This music CD is a result of “Migrant Workers’ Music Project-What Is Life” by Artist Park Kyong Ju. We, local people, might have proceeded various projects for migrant workers in Korea from the idea that they are those to be protected and often without consideration for their cultural desires. The question has motivated me to launch the migrant workers’ music project. I wanted to present an alternative rather than criticizing as an outsider. The content of the project follows.

Migrant workers wrote lyrics and professional composers made music for them. The migrant workers’ music band played and sang the songs. The songs are produced on a music CD and a music video is also produced for the title song. The project presentation for the music CD and the music video will be the official debut concert for the migrant workers’ band.

During the preliminary period for the project between August and December 2001, I publicized the project at various related organizations and collected lyrics for songs. Since December 2001, after a full-scale search for a migrant workers’ music band, I decided to work with Eureka, a music group composed of migrant workers from Myanmar. On January 2002, the title song of “What Is Life”, written by Uche from Nigeria and composed by Jongkwan Kim, was recorded. Since February 2002, I began producing music video with the title song. Composer Wolfgang in der Wische (German, currently living in Bombay, India) composed music for two songs written by Julia (Thailand) and Sosa (China). In addition to these songs, those composed by Somotu and Sanning were included on the CD.

Even though I originally planned to have Eureka play and sing all the songs, it turned out to be a tough plan for Eureka to digest all the songs enough to play and sing them since they could practice only on Sundays when there is no work for them. Therefore, for three songs “What Is Life”, “Handicapped” and “Hope”, another group played the music and Eureka did the vocal. Eureka both played and sang “To My Mother” and “The Road to Dream”. Jongkwan Kim decided that “Someday” would be better sung by a woman and asked Nalina Chitrakar, a woman singer from Nepal visiting Korea for a program by the Nepalese community in Korea, to sing the song. The two songs “There’s a Man” and “To My Heart”, composed and originally recorded by Wolfgang in der Wische (written by Sosa and Julia respectively) were added on the CD.

The purpose of the CD is to make music in whose process migrant workers participate. Therefore, this music project has different motivations from that of commercial mainstream music where popular composers make songs and professional singers and bands join. The project’s ultimate goals are also different from those of commercial songs. I’d like to call this project an ‘essay’. The essays are translated as miscellaneous writings in literature but its original meaning is ‘attempt’. Korea, even with its short history of migrant workers, has over 300,000 migrant workers on its land. Yet it lacks any cultural movement to embrace their voices. I hope that this project to be considered as its first attempt to include the still peripheral cultures of migrant workers into mainstream. Leaving the future assignment concerning musical completeness to Eureka, I‘d like to briefly introduce the group.

Eureka is an independent rock band composed of migrant workers from Myanmar. Their areas of activities are Bucheon where the Myanmar community is located in Gimpo, Bupyeong, Pocheon, and Ansan. Even though it has been several years since its first organization, the band did not have the opportunity to compose their own songs due to its unstable positions in Korea as migrant workers: some of the members have returned to their countries or to other countries. The production of the CD gave them a chance to make their own songs. The current leader of the band is San Naing (Base) with members of Soe Moe Thu (Gitar), Thant Zin (Drum), Kyaw Thura (Key Board), Soe Tun (Vocal), Htay Lynn Naing (Vocal) and Aung Myo Aye (Vocal). Tu Ya, the president of the Myanmar Community in Korea, has provided consistent support from organizing the group to its activities as the groups’s manager. The reason why I chose Eureka for my project was that the group has full members as a music band and also has musical capacity for an official debut. I am looking forward to meeting the songs from this CD album at Eureka’s performance in the future.

December 10th, 2002

Park Kyong Ju (Producer)


1. What is Life 3’29”

2. To my mother 5’33”

3. Hidrance 3’41”

4. Hope 3’23”

5. Road to dream 4’12”

6. To my heart 3’24”

7. There’s a man 4’20”

8. Someday 3’23”


Produced by Park Kyong Ju

Mastered by Hoon Cheon(SONIC KOREA)

Designed by Seungjae Joh

Translation by Minsung Chun

1. What is life

2. Someday

3. Handicapped(Hidrance)

Lyrics written by Uche(1), Jongkwan Kim(2), Dumbul Suba(3)

Composed and arranged by Jongkwan kim

Directed by Jongkwan Kim

Recorded by Myongwon Go, Myongrok OH(Doorai Recording Studio)

Mixed by Myongwon Go

Keyboards:Jongkwan Kim

Vocals on 1: Aung Myo Aye (Sharnyo), Soe Tun, Soe Moe Thu,

Htay lynn Naing(Kyaw),

Vocals on 2: Nalina Chitrakar

Vocals on 3: Aung Myo Aye (Sharnyo), Soe Moe Thu, Soe Tun, Kyow Thura

Bass: Jongkwan Kim

Guitar: Myongwon Go

Effects: Myonwon Go

Copyright of all images Ⓒ Park Kyong Ju