Today, YouTube brought me to THIS and THIS. I'm...baffled, yet delighted. I have no idea how a college drinking song that was a hit in the US in the 1930s is now being performed by men in tuxedos and women in gowns in packed stadiums in South Korea over eighty years later. And the singers and crowds are getting way into it! Google translates 우정의 노래 to "a song of friendship." I don't know any Korean, so I don't know for sure if they're using any of the original words or just the tune (I do have to assume they're probably not drinking "to Maine, our alma mater" in any case), but a search for 우정의 노래 yields pages and pages of Korean video and audio recordings of the tune, and many have kept "Stein Song" (in Latin script) in the title, even on Korean websites. I've only found one recording that is actually done in English, and that one is a straight version of the Stein Song ("let every loyal Maine man sing," etc).
It turns out that a few folks from UMaine did notice this phenomenon a couple years ago, so there are a handful of blog-type posts and a four-comment Reddit thread about it, but nobody seems to have a good answer for how our little ditty got to be such a big thing halfway around the world from its origin. Putting 우정의 노래 into youtube gives 36,000+ results, and at least on the first several pages every one that I checked is the Stein Song, performed in stadiums, concert halls, university stages, a church (seriously), wedding receptions...the song obviously has some cultural importance at this point.
With the language barrier, I've more or less hit the end of my searching ability. Questions I still have:
- What are the Korean lyrics (or more helpfully, their English translation)?
- When did the tune make the jump to Southeast Asia? WWII and/or the Korean War would make sense, but that's 1-2 decades after the Stein Song was a hit in the US
- Why is 우정의 노래 so important/popular in South Korea today?
If anyone has any insight, I'd be super grateful.
**Edit: I just found this video that has the words to the Stein Song in English on the screen behind the singers, and the Korean lyrics sound to my untrained ear to be the same as in the rest of the 우정의 노래 recordings...so maybe it is a direct translation after all?