The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry

The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry

Edited by David R. McCann
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry
    Book Description:

    Korea's modern poetry is filled with many different voices and styles, subjects and views, moves and countermoves, yet it still remains relatively unknown outside of Korea itself. This is in part because the Korean language, a rich medium for poetry, has been ranked among the most difficult for English speakers to learn. The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry is the only up-to-date representative gathering of Korean poetry from the twentieth century in English, far more generous in its selection and material than previous anthologies. It presents 228 poems by 34 modern Korean poets, including renowned poets such as So Chongju and Kim Chiha.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50594-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. List of Translators
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    (pp. 1-10)
    David R. McCann

    When I first began reading and translating the poems of Kim Sowŏl, during my second year of teaching English at the Andong Agriculture and Forestry High School, whenever I was stumped I would ask for help from teachers at the school or members of the family where I lived or even strangers on the trains and buses I rode to Taegu and Seoul. Everyone I asked seemed to know his poems by heart and was glad to help me try to understand a word or appreciate a turn of phrase. To give a better sense of the poem, they would...

    • CHU YOHAN (1900–1980)
      (pp. 13-17)

      Chu Yohan was born in P’yŏngyang and attended school in Tokyo and college in Shanghai. His 1924 collection, Arŭmdaun saebyŏk (The beautiful dawn), was one of the first ten books of poetry published in Korea in the twentieth century. A variously prolific poet, Chu published “Pullori” (“Fireworks”) in the literary journal Ch’angjo (Creation) in 1919, notable for its prose poem form and redolent of the aestheticism then intriguing Korean writers. His later poems are known for their return to Korean folk-song rhythmic patterns, diction, and subject matter, while at the same time in a folk song–style poem such as...

    • KIM SOWŎL (1902–1934)
      (pp. 18-23)

      Kim Sowŏl was born in Kusŏng, North P’yŏngan Province, near P’yŏngyang and attended the progressive Osan Middle School, where he met the teacher and literary mentor Kim Ŏk. He went to Paejae Academy in Seoul, and then, briefly or perhaps not at all—the records have been lost—to Tokyo Commercial College before returning to Seoul for a brief try at the literary life. Despite the publication of his book Chindallaekkot (Azaleas) in 1925, he abandoned the literary scene, returned to Namsi to run the branch office of the Tonga Daily newspaper, fell into increasingly destructive drinking, and died of...

    • YI SANGHWA (1901–1943)
      (pp. 24-26)

      Yi Sanghwa was born in the city of Taegu, North Kyŏngsang Province, and attended Kyŏngsŏng Central School. He later became a member of the Paekcho (White tide) literary group. A relatively obscure poet in his time, Yi’s poems were gathered and published after his death, in 1951. Still, he left several poems for which he is generally admired, poems that show something of the influence of French symbolism in Korean literary circles in the 1920s. Yi was also a founding member of KAPF, the Korean Artists Proletarian Federation, and a member of the Socialist Writers Association. His poem “Will Spring...

    • HAN YONG’UN (1879–1944)
      (pp. 27-36)

      Han Yong’un was born in Hongsŏng, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province, and attended a local sŏdang, or Confucian academy. Also known by his Buddhist name, Manhae, Han was active in the anti-Japanese, guerrilla movement known as the Righteous Armies near the turn of the century. He went to Paektam Temple, joined the Buddhist orders in 1905, and became an active leader of Korean Buddhists. Han was editor and contributor to the Buddhist newsletter Yusim, wrote the nonviolent pledges, the codicils to the 1919 Declaration of Korean Independence, and was imprisoned for three years (1919–1922) for his participation in the March First...

    • YI YUKSA (1904–1944)
      (pp. 37-40)
      YI YUKSA

      Born in Andong, North Kyŏngsang Province, Yi Yuksa, or Yi Hwal, a descendant of the renowned Neo-Confucian scholar Yi Hwang (1501–1570), actively engaged in the Korean national resistance movement during the Japanese colonial occupation and was arrested several times, both in Korea and in Beijing, which was then under Japanese colonial occupation. It is said that he took as his sobriquet his prisoner number “two-sixty-four”—“yi-yuk-sa,” in Chinese characters. In the context of the increasingly severe restrictions placed on Korean cultural forms and expressions by the Japanese colonial authorities, and in light of his persistent anticolonialist activities and repeated...

    • IM HWA (1908–1953)
      (pp. 41-50)
      IM HWA

      Born in Seoul, an active leftist poet and essayist, Im Hwa was an early leader of KAPF, the Korean Artists Proletarian Federation. His poems first appeared in 1926, when he was eighteen; his first collection, Hyŏnhaet’an (The Hyŏnhaet’an Strait), was published in 1938. Im Hwa “went North” in 1947 but was arrested in 1953, charged, convicted, and sentenced to death on the improbable charge of being an American spy. “My Brother and the Brazier,” a poem in the form of a letter, was particularly praised by Kim Kijin (see also the introductory note on Kim Sowŏl) for the colloquial form...

    • CHŎNG CHIYONG (1902–?)
      (pp. 51-59)

      With Yi Sang, Chŏng Chiyong is known as a leading avant-garde, modernist poet from the 1930s. Born in Okch’ŏn, North Ch’ungch’ŏng Province, Chŏng received his undergraduate degree in English literature at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. Another strand in the fabric of his work, though yet to be given much attention by literary historians in Korea, is Japanese poetry and its influence. Chŏng was kidnapped at the beginning of the Korean War by North Korean forces, according to South Korean sources, which accounts for the absence of any information about the time, place, or circumstances of his (presumed) death. Remarkably,...

    • KIM YŎNGNANG (1903–1950)
      (pp. 60-63)

      Kim Yŏngnang was born in Kangjin, South Chŏlla Province, and attended the Aoyama Academy in Japan. Like so many others in Korea, Kim Yŏngnang’s life was abruptly cut short, in his case by a stray bullet, early in the Korean War. His brief literary career began with lyric poems, then moved, during the repressive period of the 1930s and 1940s when the Japanese colonial administration implemented an assimilationist policy designed to eradicate Korean culture, to poems that deliberately evoked images of traditional Korea. Kim Yŏngnang’s work resembles Kim Sowŏl’s in its deployment of the Korean language and pursuit of its...

    • YI SANG (1910–1937)
      (pp. 64-78)
      YI SANG

      Yi Sang was born in Seoul, and attended the Kyŏngsŏng Technical Institute. “Yi Sang” is the sobriquet adopted by one of the most brilliantly gifted, challenging, and exasperating of Korea’s modern poets, Kim Haegyŏng. The sobriquet first: Yi Sang’s friend Pak T’aewŏn recalled that a Japanese supervisor called to Kim Haegyŏng, “Mr. Lee!” the second-most common surname—after Kim—in Korea, which in Japanese would have been “Ri-san.” According to the story, Kim Haegyŏng took that wrong name deliberately as his pen name, thereby joining Yi Yuksa as a Korean writer marking his notice of, resistance against, and existence within,...

    • NO CH’ŎNMYŎNG (1912–1957)
      (pp. 79-83)

      Born in Hwanghae Province, now in North Korea, a graduate of Ewha Womans University, No Ch’ŏnmyŏng worked as a newspaper reporter for several different papers, including the pro-Japanese Maeil Shinbo. She published poems supporting the Japanese war effort and traveled in northeastern China in aid of that cause, which placed her eventually in the problematic category of “collaborationist writer.” Immediately after the Korean War, she was arrested and tried as a wartime collaborator and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. The arrest, trial, and imprisonment, shortened to six months of the twenty-year term thanks to interventions by other writers on her...

    • PAEK SŎK (1912–?)
      (pp. 84-87)
      PAEK SŎK

      Born in Chŏngju, North P’yŏngan Province, near P’yŏngyang and Kim Sowŏl’s birthplace, Paek Sŏk was something of a rural counterpart to Im Hwa. Like Kim Sowŏl, Paek Sŏk used the flavorful dialect of his region, though his early poems, especially, dealt with the local countryside and its human inhabitants rather than the more subjective realms that Kim Sowŏl explored. Like Im Hwa, though, Paek’s work shows a shift from a sense of locatedness and of almost tactile connection to those who people the poems, to the depression and anomie that seem characteristic of much of the literary work of the...

    • YUN TONGJU (1918–1945)
      (pp. 88-95)

      Yun Tongju was born in North Kando, in northeastern China, went to Yŏnhŭi College (now Yonsei University) in Seoul, and then to Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. His one collection, Hanŭl kwa param kwa pyŏl kwa si (Sky, wind, stars, and poetry), was published posthumously, in 1948. He was arrested in 1943 and imprisoned in Fukuoka Prison, where he died, possibly a victim of medical experimentation, on 16 February 1945. The Christian imagery and the idealism in his poetry are relatively easy to perceive, even in translation; less so is the intense focus in his poems upon issues of his...

    • SŎ CHŎNGJU (1915–2000)
      (pp. 96-109)

      Sŏ Chŏngju was born in Koch’ang, North Chŏlla Province; he studied at Chungang Buddhist Academy and taught for many years at Tongguk University. Sŏ’s first collection of poems, Hwasajip (Flower snake collection), published in 1941, presented images, language, and narrative elements that were startlingly new in their vivid sensuality. Poems like “Flower Snake” or “Midday” had never been seen before in Korea, though the poet acknowledged his own indebtedness to Baudelaire. Nor had a poet written about his or her own family’s undistinguished pedigree; Sŏ’s “Self-portrait” is a work that other poets remember for its pathbreaking, if now evidently fictive...

    • PAK MOGWŎL (1916–1978)
      (pp. 110-116)

      Pak Mogwŏl was born in Kyŏngju, North Kyŏngsang Province and attended Kyesŏng Middle School in Taegu. From the poems he contributed to Ch’ŏngnok chip (Blue deer anthology; 1946) with fellow poets Cho Chihun and Pak Tujin in 1946, a reader would surmise that Pak Mogwŏl was a pastoral, nostalgic poet. His “Wayfarer,” for example, one of his most widely known and consistently taught poems, evokes a lovely Korean countryside, but at a certain distance, as the wanderer of the title moves through it without any apparent goal. That sense of detachment, of generalized images in the distance, as the wander...

    • CHO CHIHUN (1920–1968)
      (pp. 117-123)

      Born in Yŏngyang, North Kyŏngsang Province, and later a professor at Korea University, Cho Chihun in his brief life demonstrated an engagement with the real world and in his art that struggled to shape it. He published several volumes of poetry, beginning with poems in the 1946 Ch’ŏngnok chip (Blue deer anthology), which also included works by Pak Mogwŏl and Pak Tujin; P’ulip’ tachang (Blades of grass; 1952); Yŏksa ap’esŏ (Before history; 1959); Yŏun (After words; 1964). His poems on the Korean War, especially “At Tabuwŏn” and “At Toriwŏn,” are well known; his later works addressed the social and political...

    • PAK TUJIN (1916–1998)
      (pp. 124-128)

      Pak Tujin was born in Ansŏng, Kyŏnggi Province, and taught at Yŏnsei, Ewha, and Korea Universities. Included with poems by Pak Mogwŏl and Cho Chihun in Ch’ŏngnok chip (Blue deer anthology; 1946), Pak Tujin’s poems, early and late, are noted for their positive, evocative energy. “Sun,” published in 1946, is a representative work, read as an invocation to the Korean nation newly liberated from the Japanese. More direct than Pak Mogwŏl’s “Wayfarer” or Yi Sanghwa’s 1926 poem “Will Spring Return to Stolen Fields?”, “Sun” is read as an expression of the Korean people’s longing for national, boldly expressed in Shim...

    • KIM SUYŎNG (1921–1968)
      (pp. 131-140)

      Kim Suyŏng was born in Seoul; he attended Yonhui College (now Yonsei University) but did not graduate. Kim Suyŏng was Korea’s most essentially modernist poet. His works are known for their difficulty, their stubborn attention to the plain or even banal or, in the later works, the rhythm induced by repetition of phrases rather than metrical or rhythmical structures. Kim is also cited as an activist poet. While the work that followed the April 1960 Student Revolution (and military coup that brought Park Chung Hee to power in the following year) deploys images of the contemporary political scene, even a...

    • PAK INHWAN (1926–1956)
      (pp. 141-147)

      Born in Inje, Kangwŏn Province, Pak Inhwan was extremely popular, during his brief life, among readers who responded to his modernist, Western-oriented language, imagery, and subject matter of urban alienation. A close associate of the famously canonical poet Kim Suyŏng and other modernists, he was involved in two important publications, Sinsiron (New theory of poetry; 1948) and, in collaboration with Kim, the significant Saeroŭ tosi wa simintŭlŭi hapch’ang (The new city and the chorus of the citizens; 1949). The poet died at the age of thirty, only three years after the Korean War’s armistice. His best-known poem, “The Rocking Horse...

    • KIM CH’UNSU (1922–)
      (pp. 148-151)

      Kim Ch’unsu was born in Ch’ungmu, South Kyŏngsang Province and attended Nihon University in Japan. Kim Ch’unsu had considerable influence on post–Korean War poetic practice through his critical essays as well as his numerous collections of poems. The explorations of meaning and nonmeaning, of the relationship between perception and object, or the simple juxtaposition of images in his collection Ch’ŏyong, which invokes the elusive, eponymous figure from the same Shilla period that also drew the attention of the poet Sŏ Chŏngju, have attracted many readers to this Korean “language poet.”...

    • KU SANG (1919–)
      (pp. 152-155)
      KU SANG

      Born in Seoul, and a graduate of Nihon University in Japan, Ku Sang has published seven major collections of poems and a volume of collected poems, which trace his compassionate witness to the human condition. His poetry does not seem to be the product of a desire for verbal effect, for the kind of textural and textual ingenuity that characterizes the Korean-and Japanese-language works of an Yi Sang, for example, nor the aestheticized longing around which Sŏ Chŏngju’s poems seem to arrange themselves. Ku Sang’s poems have a meditative, alert, and watchful air; they may begin with spare notations of...

    • HONG YUNSUK (1925–)
      (pp. 156-159)

      Hong Yunsuk is a remarkably accessible poet, writing from a position in South Korea that, until relatively recently, seemed permanently cut off from her birth place, Yŏnbaek, Hwanghae Province, in the north. The theme of separation that runs through so much of Korea’s so-called division literature prompts in her poems an expansive, inclusive mode of speech and gesture, rather than exclusionary, isolating tones. One of the great strengths of her poetry is its capacity to universalize her experience as a Korean living in a divided land, as in her works the themes of political and cultural separation seem to modulate...

    • KIM NAMJO (1927–)
      (pp. 160-167)

      Kim Namjo was born in the city of Taegu, North Kyŏngsang Province, graduated from the Seoul National University College of Education, and taught at Soongmyŏng Womans University. She has published some thirty volumes of poetry and essays, and with Hong Yunsuk is regarded as one of the major, indeed pioneering, woman poets of the twentieth century. During the 1960s and 1970s her books of poems sold very well, while her poems also appeared in many of the leading literary journals of the day. This was an unusual combination for a woman writer at that time, popular and critical success, given...

    • PAK CHAESAM (1933–1997)
      (pp. 168-173)

      Pak Chaesam was born in Tokyo, Japan, and attended Korea University. Pak Chaesam’s poetry pursued the cycles of nature that, as much as the elements of the natural world themselves, suggest a simplicity and perfection of form. The reader will find the worlds of nature and humans nearly touching in Pak’s poems, in the elegantly suspended contemplation that a poem such as “Night at Tonghak Temple” achieves. The poem “Untitled” begins with what seem to be merely idle, if warm, observations from the window of a train passing through the city of Taegu, a place famous in Korea for its...

    • SHIN KYŎNGNIM (1936–)
      (pp. 174-181)

      Shin Kyŏngnim was born in Ch’ungju, North Ch’ungch’ŏng Province and graduated from Tongguk University. Shin Kyŏngnim’s first book, Nongmu (Farmer’s dance), created a sensation when it was published in 1973. In place of the many-times romanticized or idealized vision of rural Korean life and culture as had appeared in any number of poems and short stories previously, Shin seemed to enter directly into the lives of the village people, or those caught between the rural and urban settings of late-twentieth-century Korea. His representations of village life came from street level, or the floor of a back room where farmers gathered...

    • KO ŬN (1933–)
      (pp. 182-189)
      KO ŬN

      Born in Kunsan, North Chŏlla Province, Ko Ŭn is without question the most prolific writer of twentieth-century Korea. He has published numerous collections of poems, gatherings of poems on various subjects, as well as fifteen—or more—volumes in the series Maninbo (Ten thousand lives), dedicated to making a record of every person he has ever met. His novels, notably including Hwaŏm kyŏng (The Garland Sutra; 1991), have been best sellers. He has been publishing a long narrative poem on the Korean War and has recently published two books of poems about his journeys to North Korea. His translated collection...

    • HWANG TONGGYU (1938–)
      (pp. 190-196)

      Born in Seoul, and a graduate of Seoul National University, Hwang Tonggyu has pursued the practice of Korean poetry through periods of residence and study in Edinburgh, at the University of Iowa and New York University, then back at his alma mater, where he now teaches. Something of this path may be found in his poetry. Between the introspective landscape of a poem like “Port of Call,” or the sequence of linked poems imagining the postmortem landscapes of “Wind Burial,” there seems to be a dialectic at work between two ways of stating or defining the poetic self. The sustained...

    • SHIN TONGYŎP (1930–1969)
      (pp. 197-204)

      Shin Tongyŏp wrote with a strong sense of Korea’s history, of the common people’s resistance to or endurance of foreign as well as domestic oppression, and of the moments in Korean history, such as the March 1, 1919, Independence Movement, the April 19, 1960, Student Revolution, and other events when the people stood up to resist. His Kŭmgang (KŭmRiver), published in 1967, the most admired and widely known of his works, is an account of the nineteenth-century Tonghak, or “Eastern Learning,” rebellions, which started in the southwestern part of Korea where the poet was born—in Puyŏ, South Ch’ungch’ŏng province....

    • CHŎNG HYŎNJONG (1939–)
      (pp. 205-207)

      Born in Seoul, a graduate of Yŏnsei University, where he now teaches, Chŏng Hyŏnjong is known for a determinedly abstract, philosophical bent in his earlier works, in the collection Samulŭi kkum (An object’s dream). His later work explores the intimate relationship between animate and inanimate, humans and things, often with a wryly humorous touch, as in the deliberately overdramatic little poem “Like leaving an Umbrella Somewhere.”...

    • KIM CHIHA (1941–)
      (pp. 208-224)

      Born in Mokp’o, a port town in South Chŏlla Province, and a graduate in fine arts of Seoul National University, Kim Chiha was perhaps the first Korean poet of the twentieth century to become well known outside of Korea. His reputation internationally was due more to his identity as an activist, dissident poet than for his literary works as such. Especially during the early 1970s, as the Park Chung Hee regime imposed increasingly severe restrictions on Korean political and social life, Kim’s acerbically witty satires caused the South Korean government increasing discomfort even as they delighted Korean readers. Kim was...

    • KANG ŬN’GYO (1945–)
      (pp. 225-230)

      Born in Hongwŏn, South Hamgyŏng Province, in the DPRK, a graduate and Ph.D. from Yŏnsei University, and at present a professor of Korean literature at Tonga University, Kang Ŭn’gyo has grappled with the meaning of life and death, of individual and collective existence, and has moved from a focus on death and emptiness, and on the poetic self, to a concern with social or more public matters and the lives and concerns of other people. She was especially noted for eschewing in her earlier work the sentimentality that is sometimes (sometimes quite unfairly) ascribed to poets who, like her, are...

    • IM YŎNGJO (1943–)
      (pp. 231-235)

      Im was born in Poryŏng, South Ch’ungch’ŏng Province. He graduated from the Sŏrabŏl College of the Arts with a degree in Literary Composition, and in 1971 he made his literary debut by winning the Chung’ang Daily News Shinch’un Prize for Literature with “A Carpenter’s Song.” His poetry includes Parami namgin ŭnŏ (The secret language left by the wind; 1985), Kŭrimjarŭl chiumyŏ (Erasing the shadows; 1988), Kaldaenŭn paehuga (A reed has no back; 1992), among others....

    • KIM SŬNGHŬI (1952–)
      (pp. 236-240)

      Born in Kwangju, South Chŏlla Province, Kim Sŭnghŭi received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Sŏgang University, where she has been teaching now for several years. Kim Sŭnghŭi’s poetry collections began with idealized, striking images, then turned to the chiaroscuro effects of such poems as “Sun Mass.” The poems in Talgyal sok ŭi saeng (Life inside the egg; 1985) explore a constructed space, an area of life and yet also within it, and thereby isolated or insulated. Awarded the Sowŏl Prize for Poetry in 1990, she is the only tenured woman professor of korean literature at any of the five...

    • KIM HYESUN (1955–)
      (pp. 241-249)

      Born in Ulchin, South Kyŏngsang Province, Kim Hyesun shares with Kim Sŭnghŭi the distinction of being known as a writer who challenges the preconceived notions of so-called women’s poetry. Many of her poems, such as “Remembering the Day I Gave Birth to a Daughter,” are unabashedly about life as a woman and adopt such images as the mirrored rooms of that poem from shamanic ceremony, traditionally a women’s religion in Korea, shaping them to a modern idiom. Other more recent poems show a quite strikingly urban and language-oriented narrative inclination. She has received several prestigious awards, including the Sowŏl Prize...

    • HWANG JIWOO (1952–)
      (pp. 250-263)

      Born in Haenam, South ChŏllaProvince, and like Kim Chi Ha a graduate in arts from Seoul National University, Hwang Jiwoo began to publish his poems in 1980, and in a short time became one of the leading poets who occupied the middle ground of the so-called, “Poetry Era” of the 1980s, a ground of poetry also frequently labeled postmodern. During that period a process of cultural resistance against the government, a veritable military dictatorship, was begun in response to the bloody repression of the 18 May Kwangju Uprising. Even the most conservative accounts report that at least 400 people were...

    • PAK NOHAE (1957–)
      (pp. 264-270)

      Born in Hamp’ yŏng, South Chŏlla Province, and a graduate of Sŏllin Commercial High School, Pak Nohae is the first poet in Korea to have achieved success as a laborer-poet rather than a poet who wrote about the laboring class, whether of the factory variety, the farm, or another. Pak worked in factories, became involved in the clandestine labor movement—taking his sobriquet from the phrase “pakhae pannŭn nodong-ja ŭi haebang” (liberation of the oppressed workers). He published his first collection, Nodong ŭi saebyŏk (The dawn of labor), in 1984, a book that became a huge popular success. Pak was...