E-Mart’s “happy song” is quite possibly South Korea’s most powerful earworm. Once you’ve heard it, you can’t un-hear it, and it’s guaranteed to ring around in your head for several days afterward. Gangnam Style has nothing on this little ditty.
It’s a song that every expat in Korea likely knows. E-Mart is one of Korea’s biggest grocery retailers, and quite frankly, a fantastic place to shop. They have a decent selection of foreign imported foods. It’s clean and spacious. Staff is attentive and polite, starting from the little bow you get when you walk past the greeter at the door. Some have compared it to the Walmart of Korea, which would only be fair if Walmart wasn’t a stronghold for the lowest common denominator of American society.
This little jingle, that plays almost perpetually in E-mart, is impossibly catchy and so happy it makes you want to vomit. It’s brilliant.
As it turns out, though most people here are not aware of it, the jingle is a variation on a song from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific. Made into a film in the 1950s, the song is often cut from newer releases of the because of the racially dubious lyrics, but has been covered several times by various artists right into the 1980s. Here’s the scene from the film adaptation in 1959, which is certainly cringe-worthy.
I was also able to track down a remix of the E-Mart version which adds a bizarre electronic take on the tune. Cute, but not as infectious as the original.
And finally, if you haven’t satiated your E-Mart appetite, you can always enjoy this production from the folks over at E-Mart which includes a K-Pop inspired musical number featuring what I can only presume are actual E-Mart employees who may have missed a career in the music industry. It fairly accurately embodies the Korean aspiration for perpetual cutesy happiness.