Spring of Jirisan Mountain: Part Four –Climbing Over the Rocky Plateau by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Yun Ju-ok

Spring of Jirisan Mountain: Part Four
–Climbing Over the Rocky Plateau
by Koh Jung-hee

Beautiful they are—
azaleas rolling over the Rocky Plateau.
Giddy is the pink river water
that flows like shimmering fresh blood.
Washing off the sweat flowing from my forehead,
I look down upon the ridges beneath my feet,
and wonder, where does history flow?
The longing gathering on the mountaintop is getting greener,
and the wind of Moojin Field* is weeping in a choked voice
in the forest of dried-up trees silenced, like Heaven’s punishment.
Again I have to climb over that ridge
following the winding, uphill road.
I have to climb, treading with my whole body
the ridges of death that lie quietly face down.
I have to climb over those ridges of despair,
holding a knife against that world,
but keeping the longing within that paints the western sky.
Beyond this desolate life,
beyond this gushing love,
I should arrive at the field of Home filled with wild milk-vetch,
listening to that ice-covered mountain breaking up
that nobody can tread upon.
Tearful they make me—
azaleas rolling over the Rocky Plateau.
Giddy is the pink river water
that flows like shimmering fresh blood.

*A former term for the region of Gwangju

지리산의봄 4–세석고원을넘으며고정희

세석고원 구릉에 파도치는 철쭉꽃
선혈이 반짝이듯 흘러가는
분홍강물 어지러워라
이마에 흐르는 땀을 씻고
발 아래 산맥들을 굽어보노라면
역사는 어디로 흘러가는가,
산머리에 어리는 기다림이 푸르러
천벌처럼 적막한 고사목 숲에서
무진벌 들바람이 목메어 울고 있다
나는 다시 구불거리고 힘겨운 길을 따라
저 능선을 넘어가야 한다
고요하게 엎드린 죽음의 산맥들을
온몸으로 밟으며 넘어가야 한다
이 세상으로부터 칼을 품고, 그러나
서천을 물들이는 그리움으로
저 절망의 능선들을 넘어가야 한다
막막한 생애를 넘어
용솟는 사랑을 넘어
아무도 들어가지 못하는 저 빙산에
쩍쩍 금가는 소리 들으며
자운영꽃 가득한 고향의 들판에 당도해야 한다
세석고원 구릉에 파도치는 철쭉꽃
선혈이 반짝이듯 흘러가는
분홍강물 어지러워라

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.

A Spring Day by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

A Spring Day by Kim Yong-taek

If you are looking for me,
and all you find is a hoe covered with soil
in the kitchen garden,

just know that I have gone
to admire plum blossoms,
following the spring water of the Sumjin River,
holding a lovely woman’s hand.


나 찾다가
흙 묻은 호미만 있거든

예쁜 여자랑 손잡고
섬진강 봄물을 따라서
매화꽃 보러 간 줄 알그라.

Kim Yong-taek (1948- ) was born in Imsil, Jeollabuk-do. With lyrical (often regional) vernacular, he has written many poems about undamaged agricultural communities and the profound beauty of nature. His poetry collections include The Sumjin River,A Clear Day, Sister, The Day Is Getting Dark, The Flower Letter I Miss, Times Like A River, That Woman’s House, and Your Daring Love. He also published essay collections such as A Small Village,What’s Longed for Exists behind the Mountain, A Story of the Sumjin River, and Follow the Sumjin River and Watch. He was awarded the Kim Soo-young Literary Award (1986) and the Sowol Poetry Award (1997). He currently teaches at Woonam Elementary School.

Spring by Kim Ki-rim

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photography by Kim Young-ran

Spring by Kim Ki-rim

April has just awakened
Iike a lazy leopard.
His eyes sparkle,
he feels itchy,
his hair rises,
he stretches his back,
and he hesitates.
He has already leapt over winter.

봄/ 김기림

사월은 게으른 표범처럼
인제사 잠이 깼다.
눈이 부시다
등을 살린다
성큼 겨울을 뛰어 넘는다.

(Anne Rashid read the earlier version of this translation.)

A Flower Blooms by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photography by Im Chang-jin

A Flower Blooms by Moon Tae-jun

The yard is quiet
while the flower blooms.

The day is like a sunny floor.

The naked sky
enters the flower
for an entire day.
The flower’s lips become wet.

The sky has laid
fragrant eggs inside it.

If only meeting the person I miss is like that.

꽃이 핀다/ 문태준

뜰이 고요하다
꽃이 피는 동안은

하루가 볕바른 마루 같다

맨살의 하늘이
꽃 속으로 들어간다
꽃의 입시울이 젖는다.

하늘이 향기 나는 알을
꽃 속에 슬어놓는다

그리운 이 만나는 일 저처럼이면 좋다.

(Darcy Brandel and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.)

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard(2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004), the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

Spring by Yun Dong-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Spring by Yun Dong-ju

Spring runs within blood vessels like a stream,
and on the bank near a stream
forsythias, azaleas, and yellow cabbage flowers

I, who have endured winter,
sprout like grass

Joyful robin,
fly up from any furrow

The blue sky
glistens high above


봄이 혈관 속에 시내처럼 흘러
돌 , 돌, 시내 가차운 언덕에
개나리, 진달래, 노오란 배추꽃

삼동(三冬)을 참어온 나는
풀포기처럼 피어난다.

즐거운 종달새야
어느 이랑에서나 즐거웁게 솟쳐라.

푸르른 하늘은
아른아른 높기도 한데

(Melanie Steyn read the earlier version of this translation.)

yundongjuphotoYun Dong-ju (1917 – 1945) was born in Longjing, Jiandao, in present-day northeastern China. He was known for lyric poetry as well as resistance poetry against Japanese colonialism.

From Winter Tree to Spring Tree by Hwang Ji-woo

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel


Photography by Chae-Pyong Song

From Winter Tree to Spring Tree by Hwang Ji-woo

A tree is a tree
In its body.
With its whole body the tree becomes a tree.
All the body naked,
At thirteen degrees below zero,
At twenty degrees below zero,
Rooting the whole body into the earth,
Lifting its head,
Standing as a defenseless naked tree,
Standing in a posture of punishment, lifting its two hands,
Ah, in a punished body, in a punished life,
Standing up, but
Saying, this is not it, this is not it,
It suffers in all of its soul,
It burns inside, inside the body,
Resisting, rejecting, from below zero,
To above zero, five degrees above zero,
Thirteen degrees above zero, moving above earth,
It pushes, it pushes up,
Till all its body breaks down–
Breaking down, blisters forming,
Breaking out, with its hot tongue,
It pushes the shoot
Slowly, steadily,
Suddenly the shoot becomes a green leaf,
Bumping into a blue April sky,
The tree becomes a tree in its whole body.
Ah, finally, at last,
The blooming tree is a blooming tree
In its body.

겨울―나무로부터 봄―나무에로 / 황지우

나무는 자기 몸으로
자기 온몸으로 나무는 나무가 된다
자기 온몸으로 헐벗고
영하(零下) 십삼도(十三度)
영하(零下) 이십도(二十度) 지상(地上)에
온몸을 뿌리박고 대가리 쳐들고
무방비의 나목(裸木)으로 서서
두 손 올리고 벌 받는 자세로 서서
아 벌 받은 몸으로, 벌 받는 목숨으로
기립(起立)하여, 그러나
이게 아닌데 이게 아닌데
온 혼(魂)으로 애타면서 속으로 몸속으로
버티면서 거부하면서 영하(零下)에서
영상(零上)으로 영상(零上) 오도(五度)
영상(零上) 십삼도(十三度) 지상(地上)으로
밀고 간다, 막 밀고 올라간다
온몸이 으스러지도록
으스러지도록 부르터지면서
터지면서 자기의 뜨거운 혀로
싹을 내밀고
천천히, 서서히, 문득, 푸른 잎이 되고
푸르른 사월 하늘 들이받으면서
나무는 자기의 온몸으로 나무가 된다
아아, 마침내, 끝끝내
꽃피는 나무는 자기 몸으로
꽃피는 나무이다

(Melanie Steyn has read the earlier version of this translation.)

Hwang Ji-woo (1952 – ) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do. He studied aesthetics and philosophy at college. He began to write poetry in 1980 and has published several books of poetry including Even Birds Leave the World (1983), From Winter Tree to Spring Tree (1985), and I’ll Sit in a Cloudy Tavern Some Day (1990). Among his prestigious literary awards are the Kim Sooyoung Literary Award, the Hyundae Literary Award, the Sowol Poetry Award, and the Daesan Literary Award. He currently teaches at the Korean Academy of Theater.

Spring by Lee Sung-bu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Photography by Chae-Pyong Song

Spring by Lee Sung-bu

You come even though I don’t wait,
even when I have abandoned waiting itself.
You linger around the edges of mud flats
or rotten puddles,
you distract easily, get into fights,
fall on your back, tired,
and when the wind, who rushes to you with urgent news,
wakes you up, shaking, you come slowly, rubbing your eyes.
Slowly, slowly, at last, what should come comes.
You look so dazzling
I cannot get up to face you.
Though I open my mouth to shout,
my voice is hardened,
and I cannot forewarn anyone.
With difficulty, I open my two arms to embrace you,
the one who comes from afar, after winning the fight.

/ 이성부

기다리지 않아도 오고
기다림마저 잃었을 때에도 너는 온다.
어디 뻘밭 구석이거나
썩은 물웅덩이 같은 데를 기웃거리다가
한눈 좀 팔고, 싸움도 한 판 하고,
지쳐 나자빠져 있다가
다급한 사연 듣고 달려간 바람이
흔들어 깨우면
눈 부비며 너는 더디게 온다.
더디게 더디게 마침내 올 것이 온다.
너를 보면 눈부셔
일어나 맞이할 수가 없다.
입을 열어 외치지만 소리는 굳어
나는 아무것도 미리 알릴 수가 없다.
가까스로 두 팔을 벌려 껴안아 보는
너, 먼 데서 이기고 돌아온 사람아.

(Melanie Steyn has read the earlier version of this translation.)

Lee Sung-bu (1942 – 2012) was born in Gwangju. He studied Korean Literature at Kyunghee University. His published books of poetry include Our Bread, Traveling to Baekje, The Eve, Plain, and Leaving behind the Empty Mountain. Among his literary awards are Modern Literature Award and Korean Literature Writers Award.

Spring Rain by Lee Su-bok

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photography by Na Mari

“Spring Rain” by Lee Su-bok

When this rain stops
on the long bank of my heart by the river ferry point
sorrowful grass will darken into a deep green.

On the footpath of the green barley field
in the blue sky
only a robin will chatter a song.

When this rain stops
in the lovely fields flowers will compete to bloom,
and girls will stand lonely, in pairs. 

Like the incense smoke
that rolls upward before the lover
the earth will shimmer again.

봄비/ 이수복

이 비 그치면
내 마음 강나루 긴 언덕에
서러운 풀빛이 짙어 오것다.

푸르른 보리밭길
맑은 하늘에
종달새만 무어라고 지껄이것다.

이 비 그치면
시새워 벙글어질 고운 꽃밭 속
처녀애들 짝하여 외로이 서고

임 앞에 타오르는
향연(香煙)과 같이
땅에선 또 아지랑이 타오르것다.

(Annie Rashid and Darcy Brandel read the earlier drafts of this translation.)

Magnolias Bloom and Wither by Hong Hae-ri

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Magnolias Bloom and Wither by Hong Hae-ri

The ephemeral lamps kindled by tears
that overflow with sorrow,

like the most innocent
saintly girls,

now clamorous
as they rush to disrobe,

soon after, sloppy,
the corpses of the fallen angels.

목련꽃 피고지고/ 洪 海 里

슬픔이 절절 흐르는
눈물로 켠 저 찰나의 등

가장 순수한
성녀 같더니

다투어 옷을 찢느라

금세 질척하니
추락한 천사의 시체.

Annie Rashid and Darcy Brandel read the earlier versions of this translation.