Disclaimer: Usage of lyrics extract at anytime must still include credit to both the original romanizer/translator and 'Aheeyah.com'. Just because the site is closed down doesn't mean I won't be still be lurking and cracking down on those who steal and use our lyrics without credits.
It was hard to say everything about a website that ran for 10 years in an eight minute video, so here is the rest -- the full behind story, in all it's entirety, down to the dirtiest details.
I didn't think it was fair to close down a site that some people have known and relied on for such a long time without a fair explanation.
How I Fell In Love With Kpop
A long story short -- My Korean best friend in elementary school showed me a video of H.O.T, I couldn't take my eyes off of Kangta (literally! I wanted to rewatch that video all day at her house!) and since then, I was in love ^.^
I really want to be an inspiration to foreign Kpop fans struggling to learn Korean, thinking it's impossible to learn and master a language from scrap -- because it's not.
I never recieved any encouragement to learn Korean. My parents thought it was useless and wondered why I spent so much time listening to and singing in gibberish -- and it really was gibberish! I had no lyrics or romanizations. I was just listening to and repeating whatever my ears heard.
With no internet, no money, and no outside access whatsoever, I spent about 3 years listening to the cassette tape my friend recorded for me of H.O.T.'s first album. I knew nothing about the music industry, and it never occured to me that this band would be actively releasing new music.
One day, I went on a trip to China. In a random CD store, I saw H.O.T's 5th album! Imagine my surprise. I asked my mom to buy it for me right away.
The purchase of this CD was my first exposure to written Korean. I still remember this moment in my life, clear as a shiny glass reflection, lying in bed at night with my ears plugged in and the CD booklet in my hand, I decided it must not be that hard to figure out at least what one or two of these characters sounded like by listening to the song and following the written lyrics at the same time.
About 3 seconds into the song, I realized it was impossible. The song was fast, I had no idea how the characters were broken down, and I didn't know where one sound ended and the other began.
For some reason, I felt really annoyed. It bothered me that I couldn't figure it out. All I wanted to do was to sing along! There was this burning frustration from not being able to do something that I loved so much. I decided -- I was going to learn how to read Korean.
By this time, I had a computer and Internet at home. I found a website that taught the Korean alphabet online, and spent the next 3 days
literally doing nothing but reading the lessons and learning the alphabet.
The moment I was able to hold up the romanized lyrics in front of myself and sing along properly to each and every single word I heard -- it was pure joy.
I also began practicing how to read Korean by printing out the Korean lyrics, and writing the English romanization above the lyrics.
Eventually, I also started to print out translations too. I would glue the Korean lyrics on the left side of a notebook, and the
translation on the right. It was in this way that I started to figure out the meaning of certain words by seeing the matching romanized and translated lyrics over and over again. I realize being able to sing along wasn't enough -- I wanted to know the meaning of the lyrics as well and made that my new pursuit.
Since the day I picked up that CD booklet, I've never been satisfied with my Korean. I always had a goal, and every time I reached that goal, I'd always form a new one. More on this later.
Since I started learning Korean online, I was opened to a whole new world. I began looking up pictures and information of H.O.T. (there were no youtube videos yet at the time! can you even imagine that now?) and interacting with other H.O.T fans on H.O.T. forums or websites. It was a wonderful time, full of happy fangirl moments.
But as it is, happy moments always seem much too short.
As you may already know, H.O.T. disbanded in 2001. Can you imagine how it was like for me, sitting at the computer, staring at the news on the screen, reading it over and over, and wondering whether this was really happening?
I don't think I even need to explain to you how my world shattered.
At around this time, the H.O.T. forum, H5T Forums, that I spent every day on, and my favorite H.O.T. website (H.O.T. Jjang by Cathy) also closed down. It was like a double hit for me.
However, even after H.O.T. broke up, most fans were still determined to keep
supporting them, and I was one of them. Cathy, the webmaster of H.O.T Jjang, was a major inspiration to me. I loved her website and was heart broken to see it close down. As a result, I decided to make my own H.O.T. website -- H.O.T Dedication.
While I loved H.O.T., they weren't the only band I followed. I must admit that after they broke up, I began to really like some other bands as well -- Shinhwa, Fly to the Sky, etc.
I wanted to make a new website where I could do something for all the bands I liked. Because I would be running on free hosting, it would be difficult to run a pictures or download website with such limited storage and bandwidth. The complexities of running a forum was also too much for me (although at the time, forum interfaces were much more simple). So, in the end, purely out of a lack of resources and experience, I decided to make a text-based -- low storage and bandwidth -- Kpop lyrics website.
Iyah was the name I originally had in mind for the website -- it was one of my favorite H.O.T. song. Although I couldn't afford it at the time, I had plans to eventually buy a domain name, and 'iyah.com' was already taken at the time, so I named the site Iyah Lyricals.
I started off by romanizing and uploading lyrics on my own. Eventually, I realized it would be difficult for one person to produce lyrics, and it would be nice to have some translations as well, so I began to hire staff.
As the site grew, I finally purchased my own hosting and domain name.
I decided to go back to the original name I intended for the site, and since 'iyah.com' was already taken, I went for the romanized style of Aheeyah.com, which, appropriately and conveniently, would suit a romanized and translated lyrics website.
Since then, the website grew into what many of you came to know.
Oh, the Drama
You'd think running a small little Kpop website would be easy -- oh, that was what I thought too. It's hard for me to put all the pieces together of an experience that ran for such a long span of time, but there are lots of things that stick out in my memory.
There was a point in the running of the website where I was mentally drained. The website was getting bigger than I could handle with just myself, and Sabby and Esther, Aheeyah's romanizer and
translator (two of Aheeyah's longest termed staff who I worked with for years), and I thought, I would either have to close the site down because it is growing beyond what I could handle, or with Sabby and Esther's support, find and train a whole team of staff. I am eternally grateful that the two girls agreed to help me choose, train, and lead an entire team of new lyrics staff. Shortly after, we opened Aheeyah Forums to both accomodate our new staff as a workspace, and to provide a place of interaction for Aheeyah's visitors. Things kicked off from there.
Before I opened the official Aheeyah Forums, I actually already had a hand at trying to run a really small forum for Aheeyah lyrics staff only. I had a few volunteers for staff, I wasn't picky with who I chose, and opened a forums and asked them to submit lyrics there.
However, I was young, lax, and just inexperienced. I had no idea how to manage a larger team of staff. No one did anything, nothing really mattered, and eventually, the team just disbanded themselves. I was left back at zero.
I must admit, I am not the easiest webmaster to work for.
I am demanding, picky, and blunt.
Basically, I describe myself with the word that starts with a b and involves a ch. Heck, my staff don't even get paid for all the hard work they do! But we all knew that we are doing something for the good of Kpop and helping others out. This passion and love for Kpop was what drove us all to put so much of our own personal time and effort into Aheeyah.
now you know, there is reason behind the way I run my staff. And it worked, didn't it? During our most active period, we were the biggest Kpop lyrics website recieving 1200+ unique visitors a day. We had an effectively functioning lyrics staff team, churning out romanizations and translations on a regular basis, and a very close moderation team, managing and building the forums. It was really a lot of hard work, but I loved and enjoyed what I was doing and made some wonderful friends from my staff team.
It was one of the happiest periods in my life as a webmaster.
My parents never paid for my university tuition. If they were to teach me to swim, they'd be the type to throw me in the water and wait for me to figure it out (with a watchful eye!). I never took student loans because I didn't like the idea of debt after graduation.
There was one summer of my university semester when I worked four part-time jobs -- McDonald's, Taekwondo Instructor, Korean tutor, and helping my mom's store out. Still, it was never enough to pay for my university tuition and personal expenses. Throw in the costs of Aheeyah's hosting and domain.
Eventually, I had to do something I didn't like -- ask Aheeyah's visitors for donation. It was a big ordeal mixed with kind and positive support and hateful and negative losers, and of course, one bad egg spoils ten good ones. The whole thing became so stressful that one day, while checking the forums at the university library before heading home, I read another nasty comment about how selfish and stupid it was for me to close down the site, and thinking back on all the innocent and happy moments I spent sitting at my computer updating the site, all the teamwork involved with our lyrics staff claiming lyrics to do and helping each other out, and each and every day our moderation team would spend moderating and posting in the forums, I was just so overwhelmed with how someone could be so nasty and inconsiderate. Everything just came crashing down and I broke into tears.
Yes, I cried for a freakin' website. I mean, seriously... right?
Of course, I told my staff, and they were there to tell me that those losers should drown in a puddle of cow dung, and I pulled myself together.
Where would Aheeyah have gone without my wonderful staff team?
The Problems Aheeyah Faced
The reason I am closing the site down is not only what I mentioned in the video. Here are the two other major issues.
We lack translators. I'm always surprised when we get the occasional comment that our translations are not accurate.
I hire translators with a filter sieve the size of dust particles -- I'm so picky with who I choose, I hardly ever find one good application out of 10.
I want dedicated, capable, and passionate staff, and its not easy at all to find someone with all three qualities.
You will get either awesome translators who are too flaky to commit to your site. You will have extremely dedicated applicants who are foreigners learning Korean or Kyobos who have worse Korean than me. I've even taken time to train these people, review their translations and personally give them tips and pointers on how they can improve their Korean and translating abilities. I mean, what more can I be doing?
But alas, these three qualities are so hard to come by that there is always an imbalance between the amount of romanizers and translators. Often times, we are running with just one or no translators at all. I try to translate as much as I can, but my hands are often full maintaining the website and staff team.
People steal our lyrics. They copy and paste lyrics from Aheeyah onto their own or other websites and forums without giving credit to either the romanizer/translator or Aheeyah. I used to jump on these cases and threaten to report these people, and usually they are quick to give the proper credits, but is this really what I should be doing? The time it takes for me to settle such issues, I could be translating a few more songs.
Lately, it is just getting out of hand. It has come to a point where I cannot even address the issues anymore, because the stolen lyrics will be found on foreign, non-English forums where I can't even understand the language to register and whip-lash the admin, who is likely thinking Aheeyah will never find out because their forum is not English.
There are also more and more user-submission based websites where the webmasters administer absolutely no moderation
whatsoever on the contents posted on their website. So, what you get is a bunch of users trying to load up points or whatever it is that website offers them by posting stolen lyrics from Aheeyah. I can't even contact these people individually because the website offers no contact information about their users or of themselves.
It is absolutely ridiculous. Did our staff put our efforts and time to produce lyrics so other people can claim them as their own or make measley points for themselves off of websites not willing to do their own work and produce their own content? No. It is totally unfair to us and I am just sick and tired of it.
The ridiculous thing is,
I have always had a really open policy. Anyone is allowed to use our lyrics on their website and forums. I am not like some websites or forums who think their content should only be available on their site. I want all fans to have access to our lyrics, because our goal is to help others out. All I ever asked was that people give us credit for what we do. Is that even too much to ask for? Are people so selfish and inconsiderate that they will just disregard our generosity and steal our lyrics for their own credit? I will never be able to understand how these people came to adopt brains of frogs and toads.
Since the site has been inactive, who knows how much more of our lyrics have been stolen? That is the reason why I am closing Aheeyah down instead of leaving it open and continuing to provide our lyrics on an inactive website.
All else has been said in the video, so I will end the Aheeyah story here.
Learning Korean is Not Impossible!
To end on a more encouraging note, I would like to finish my story of learning Korean.
Most people assume that the webmaster of Aheeyah.com is Korean. I am not. In fact, I am 100% Chinese. I was born in Hong Kong, moved to, and raised in Canada since the age of 6. I am currently employed in South Korea as an English teacher and am spending my 4th year here.
I just want to prove that all you foreign Kpop fans out there who are either too lazy or discouraged or think that you don't have the resources to learn Korean from scratch without paying loads of money are absolutely wrong.
You don't need to pay big bucks. You don't need to spend hours over a textbook. You don't even need to live in Korea. You don't need to be talented. You don't need to be a genius.
Today, most people who hear me speak Korean can't even tell that I'm actually not. When I, or my friends, say, "You know, she's actually not Korean?", they are always shocked, and then ask the inevitable question of 'How did you learn Korean?".
I'm really not trying to boast. Heck, I usually try to keep it a secret (because of my job -- and please, if you are my student who has actually read all the way to here -- first, you must be a stalker!; second, please just pretend you know nothing). What I'm trying to say is, I am the same girl who was looking at that H.O.T. booklet desperately wanting to sing along but being unable to read the Korean alphabet.
Yes, that was once me. How did it happen?
That's it. That's all there is to it. Anyone who wants to learn a language, you just have the passion and you will learn it. If you have no passion, even if you are the smartest person or the lamest low-life with hours on your hands to kill, you will not learn the language. Passion will drive you and teach you to no end.
I admit that being exposed to Korean since I was in elementary school helped. Taking Korean in university also helped. Living in Korea definitely didn't hurt. However, do you really think that if I didn't have the passion and drive to constantly expose myself to the language, that I would really be where I am today?
When I was young, all I had was the same H.O.T. album to listen to over and over again for three years.
Lots of people take languages in university and forget it the moment the class is over.
Some of my coworkers have been working in Korea for 3-4 years and still can't read the freakin' alphabet.
Let me give you another example. I'm a huge Starcraft fan. I played it so much in high school
I almost couldn't get into university. The moment I found out about the professional gaming industry in Korea, I couldn't get myself over it.
This was in the middle of my first year in Korea. I had been learning Korean in university for 6 terms (1.5 years), which provided a good foundation, but if someone had asked me for directions on the street, I would be so nervous and tongue-tied I'd pretend I had absolutely no knowledge of Korean and tell them I spoke only English (this actually happened to me before >.<).
So even though I had no idea what they were saying, for months, I spent literally every spare moment watching these Starcraft games. On weekdays, I'd watch it for 4 hours. On weekends, I'd watch it for 6-8 hours. When I had time, I'd even go watch it live at the broadcast gaming stadium.
I'd have it on constantly. I'd have it streaming on my laptop while playing it on TV as well. It was on while I was cooking or doing my laundry. I'd watch it in between breaks at work. Even after I left Korea and went back to Vancouver for a year, I was still downloading it to watch.
One day, as I was sitting in my living room in Vancouver, 6 months into this Starcraft obssession, it just washed over me like a sudden epiphany that I understood every. single. word. that was being said. I immediately got up, ran to my brother, and said 'OMG! You know what? I understand every single thing they are saying, but I had no idea what the heck they were talking about before!' (and my brother just said '...Cool').
I know it sounds totally weird -- how could you not realize you understand something you watched every single day?
I know it sounds totally corny. Passion will drive you to learn a language. But it's totally true.
I enjoyed watching these Starcraft games so much that it didn't matter to me whether I understood it or not. As a result, I didn't even realize as I started to pick up what all the jargon meant.
I loved H.O.T. and their music so much that I didn't care that my parents didn't like my Kpop obsession and I still sang along in gibberish. Now, my pronunciation can pass as a Korean.
I had such a burning desire to be able to translate songs, that I ran Aheeyah for over 10 years and could finally produce my own translations.
Those were the things I did to pursue the language I wanted to learn.