These sad and familiar lyrics, originally written by the poet Kim So-wol, and quoted in “The River” touched Koreans’ hearts again when the song appeared in the movie “The Modern Boy.” The singer was Jeong Mi-jo(’68, Arts), who first sang “The River” in her stage debut, almost 30 years ago.
But fans of the song will be surprised to learn that Jeong is now a professor of Painting in the Art College at Suwon University and devotes all her efforts to art education. Her life has been marked by diversity. In fact, says Jeong, “You can go back and start art again whenever you want. What is important is that art covers a wide range enough for you to broaden your vision to live a rich life.”
When Jeong was young, her dream was to become a ballerina, so she studied ballet for five years. However, she found a new potential in music during her high school years, when teachers recommended she take part in various musical contests and she won prizes in every one. Jeong took private music lessons, but she found music physically demanding. At the same time, she also found a talent in painting and won several prizes in art contests. With this diverse preparation, Jeong entered Ewha in 1968 as a Painting major. As Jeong’s family lived in Gimpo, she had to live in the school dormitory.
“One day, one of the roommates suggested I sing in front of other students at a welcoming party,” said Jeong. That event became the beginning of her first career as a singer. She received encores from her mates, and the Dean of the Office of Student Affairs at Ewha personally contacted her to sing at other official events. With supports from friends, Jeong went to Vietnam during the war years as a member of a performance group to boost morale and she also had a chance to sing gospel songs as a soloist with the chorus onEaster Day during the school chapel service.
Jeong said that meeting Patti Kim was the biggest turning point in her life. On May Day, Ewha invited famous singers including Song Chang-wan and Yang Hee-un, as well as Kim, to celebrate the festival. When Jeong sang as the representative of Ewha students, Kim, impressed by Jeong’s song, immediately invited her to the “Patti Kim Show.”Jeong was unable to participate because of the school rule that restricted students’ external activities, including TV performance. However, after graduating from Ewha, the attention she had received enabled her to sign a contract with a recording company. This was when she made debut with the song “The River.”
Right after her debut, she won the Best New Artist Awards given by the three major broadcasting stations in Korea and her popularity lasted over seven years. Only then did Jeong retire from the stage and go to Paris to study further in her other major interest in life which is art. After graduating from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, she obtained a doctorate from the Universit de Paris in 1991. Jeong then came back to Korea in 1992.
Recently, she held the 23th personal exhibition under the theme of infinity at the KAIST Graduate School of Information & Media Management on October 16. This exhibition was a memorable for her because she could freely decide theme. Also, it was unique experience for Jeong to hold an exhibition in the graduate school.
In all, Jeong lived abroad for almost thirteen years. Although it was hard for her to adjust to her new circumstances at first, she never regretted her decision.“I can now understand different countries’ culture by traveling to various countries,” said Jeong.
Jeong emphasized that students should beaware that their college major does not automatically decide their future career. Jeong said, “Never worry about other people’s viewpoint on what you do, but make sure that you have a specific dream and put all your efforts into realizing it.”
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