Climbing Over Jirisan Mountain by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Lee Gye-du

Climbing Over Jirisan Mountain by Kim Jun-tae

I need to talk to the clouds.
I need to talk to the wind.
I need to talk to the stepping stones by the stream.
I need to talk to the trees.
I need to talk to the cigarette butts.
Even though my words may, absurdly,
become clouds or wind,
or shake as trees at the end of December,
or fly away as sleepless birds,
or even if they become cigarette butts
that one throws away without any thought,
I need to name my words,
like the water in a kettle that overflows when it boils,
I need to scatter all of my words
over every corner of the world.
In fact, my words are their words;
my songs are their songs.

智異山을 넘으며/ 김준태

나는 구름에게 말해야 한다
나는 바람에게 말해야 한다
나는 시냇가 디딤돌에게 말해야 한다
나는 나무에게 말해야 한다
나는 담배꽁초에게 말해야 한다
내가 한 말이 어처구니 없이
구름이 되거나 바람이 되거나
저무는 12월 나무로 흔들리거나
혹은 불면의 새로 날아가버릴망정
무심코 던져버리는 담배꽁초가 될망정
나는 나의 말에게 이름을 붙여주어야 한다
주전자에 물이 끓으면 넘치듯이
그렇게 그렇게 나의 모오든 말을
세상 곳곳에 뿌려주어야 한다
사실은 그들의 말인 나의 말을
사실은 그들의 노래인 나의 노래를.

Jirisan Mountain is located in the southern region of South Korea, spanning three provinces: North and South Jeolla, as well as Gyeongsang. Throughout Korean history, the mountain has taken up a variety of different meanings, reflecting many writers’ desires and needs of different moments in time. For some Korean writers, Jirisan Mountain is a tragic figure of tumultuous modern Korean history. For others, it has been a figure of the magical, the sacred, the abundant, and the motherly.  For others, Jirisan Mountain has been metaphorized as a mountain of the people and resistance, but also as a mountain of death and resentment, where fierce battles were fought between the end of Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, slaughtering many Koreans. And still yet, for others, the mountain is a space of life and hope that renews the lives of today and tomorrow.

1 thought on “Climbing Over Jirisan Mountain by Kim Jun-tae

  1. hi…thanks for the poem. Reading your narrative poem really made me felt that i was there and could feel the wind breeze and imagine what the place look like…

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