To the Friend by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Melanie Steyn

Photography by Melanie Steyn

To the Friend by Kim Nam-ju

Good friends are not the people of this world any more.
Those alive have either been captured and imprisoned behind the cruel wall
or have become underground water and run silently.
Some went beyond the night and float as ghosts.
Comrade, don’t lose your faith in victory.
Now is the time to stand trials and endure.
Train your heart and body, for the future is beautiful,
and it is ours.

The time to say good-bye has come.
With the courage that you showed to me,
with the weapon that you left, I take off,
mulling over the words you embodied:
true living comprises not possessions
but endless adventures toward being;
only in battle can a human be born anew every moment;
revolution can achieve its goal only in execution.

벗에게/ 김남주

좋은 벗들은 이제 이미 이 세상 사람이 아니라네
살아남은 이들도 잡혀 잔인한 벽 속에 갇혀 있거나
지하의 물이 되어 숨죽여 흐르고 있다네
더러는 국경의 밤을 넘어 유령으로 떠돌고
동지, 잃지 말게 승리에 대한 신념을
지금은 시련을 참고 견디어야 할 때,
심신을 단련하게나 미래는 아름답고
그것은 우리의 것이네.

이별의 때가 왔네
자네가 보여준 용기를 가지고
자네가 두고 간 무기를 들고 나는 떠나네
자네가 몸소 행동으로 가르쳐준 말
–참된 삶은 소유에 있는 것이 아니고 존재로 향한
끊임없는 모험 속에 있다는
투쟁 속에서만이 인간은 순간마다 새롭게 태어난다는
혁명은 실천 속에서만이 제 갈 길을 바로 간다는–말을 되새기며.

Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Chonnam National University. He is known as one of the major resistance poets in South Korea, leading the people’s movement in the 1970s and 80s that ultimately toppled the dictatorship in Korea. Because of his activism, he was imprisoned twice, for more than ten years in total. In prison where paper and pencil were not allowed, he wrote many poems on milk cartons with the nail he made by grinding a toothbrush. These poems were later published in two collected volumes of his prison poetry, The Sunlight on the Prison Bar. His poetry bears witness to the tyranny of dictatorship and the hardships of the oppressed. He published such poetry collections as Requiem, My Sword My Blood, One Fatherland, The Weapon of Love and In This Lovely World. He received the Yun Sang-won Literary Award in 1993 and the National Literary Award in 1994. His poems have also been memorialized by Korean activist, rock singer An Chi-hwan in his album entitled Remember.

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