Oh, My Mother By O Yŏng-jae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

"A Hometown Slope" by Rhee Gil-nam, a North Korean painter

Oh, My Mother by O Yŏng-jae
— Upon Hearing after 40 Years that My Mother Lives in the South

Still alive,
And almost eighty
Even today Mother is still alive.
A sun suddenly rises
In the middle of a black night
A heavy shower of joy at once fills,
Overflows, and gushes out of my heart.
A heavy joy crushes me.
Collapsed, I cry,
This son wails.
On my knees, my senses . . . gone,
I bow over and over again.
What has kept Mother going
Till today,
Is not the grace of God,
Nor Time’s sympathy.
It is Mother’s faith
That kept her head high up to the world,
Because she will not close her eyes
Till she embraces this son once more.
To her faith,
I bow on my knees.
Mother, thank you.
Oh, Mother, thank you.

, 나의 어머니 – 고맙습니다/  오영재
– 40년만에 남녘에 계시는 어머니의 소식을 듣고 –

생존해 계시니
생존해 계시다니
팔순이 다된 그 나이까지
오늘도 어머님이 생존해 계시다니
캄캄한 밤중에
문득 솟아오른 해님입니다
한꺼번에 가슴에 차고 넘치며
쏟아지는 기쁨의 소나기입니다
그 기쁨 천 근으로 몸에 실려
그만 쓰러져 웁니다.
목놓아 이 아들은 울고 웁니다
땅에 엎드려 넋을 잃고
자꾸만 큰절을 합니다.
어머님을 이날까지
지켜 준 것은
하느님의 자비도 아닙니다
세월의 인정도 아닙니다.
그것은 이 아들을 다시 안아 보기 전에는
차마 눈을 감으실 수 없어
이날까지 세상에 굿굿이 머리 들고 계시는
어머님의 믿음입니다.
그 믿음앞에
내 큰절을 올립니다.
어머니 고맙습니다.
어머니여, 고맙습니다.

(This translation of North Korean poem was originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 2, 2008)

O Yŏng-jae was born in 1935 in Jangsung, Chonnam Province of South Korea. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was selected for the People’s Volunteer Army (at the age of 16).  He has lived in the North ever since. He is the author of several epic odes, including “The Daedong River” (1985) which is well known for initiating epic odes as a representative of the North Korean poetic style. To South Koreans he is best known for “Mother, Please, Don’t Get Older,” which he wrote when reunited with his mother in 2000 for the Reunion of the Dispersed Families of the South and North Koreas.

1 thought on “Oh, My Mother By O Yŏng-jae

  1. This is the most inspirational poem I have ever read. It had me near to tears of joy & sadness. I have never thought of a mother this way but the poem makes the mother also a symbol of one’s native country and how desperately one can yearn for home, thinking it all a dream until almost as if by a miracle, one is allowed to return.

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