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Baek Seok

Baek Seok scrap

백석

  • Category

    Poetry

  • Target User

    Adult 성인

  • Period

    Modern 근대

Author Bio 작가 소개

Baek Seok (1912 -1996) was a Korean poet.

1. Life

Baek Seok was born Baek Kihaeng in Chongju, North Pyongan Province. He made his literary debut in 1930, winning the Chosun Ilbo New Writer's Contest with his short story "Geu mowa adeul" (그 모와 아들 That Mother and Son). He started his journalistic career at the Chosun Ilbo in 1934 and published his first poem, "Jeongjuseong" (정주성 Chongju Fortress), in the same paper the following year. In January 1935 he published a 100-copy limited edition of Saseum (사슴 Deer), containing 33 poems. Until 1948, he published about 60 more poems, but is not believed to have produced another poetry book.

In 1937 Baek resigned from the Chosun Ilbo and moved to Hamhung to teach English and focus on his poetry. "Nawa natashawa huin dangnagui" (나와 나타샤와 흰 당나귀 Me, Natasha and a White Donkey) was written during this stay. Baek rejoined the Chosun Ilbo briefly in 1939, publishing Seohaengsicho (서행시초 Traveling West), written while traveling Pyongan and Hamgyong.


After the liberation Baek returned to his hometown, where he focused on children's literature and Russian translation, but was criticized for his literary views. In 1958 he was banished to a farming collective in Samsu, where he lived out his life as a shepard and farmer. In South Korea, Baek's works were long banned due to his North Korean associations. However, since 1988, with the first publication of his works since the Korean War, he has been widely re-evaluated by scholars and critics. In 2007 Baek was listed by the Korean Poets' Association among the ten most important modern Korean poets.

2. Writing

 As a foundational poet of the early modernist movement, Baek Seok utilized not only Pyongan dialect and archaic words but also language from other provinces. Like Kim Sowol, Baek Seok 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 Sowol explored. Like Im Hwa, though, Baek’s work shows a shift from a sense of locatedness and 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 1930s.[1]

One of the outstanding features of Baek's work is its folk character, recounting the customs and manners of common people from the pre-modern era and expression an earnest devotion to Korean folk style in the voice of the modern citizenry. This method allows us to gain insight into the connection of people to their ethnic customs and cultural heritage, as with "Yeounan goljok" (여우난 곬족 Family of Fox Valley) or "Goya" (고야 Ancient Night), and other poems that convey a sense of communal unity to the reader.[2]

Baek drew influences from the surrounds of nature, writing pastoral poetry that tapped into the memories of the people in a natural setting that emphasized the objects surrounding Koreans in their daily lives. The universals of food and farm and mountain and village and beasts, not mystic but common and not common but comfortable, all found familiarity in his poems’ framework. Employing a borrowed landscape technique put into practice by traditional landscape artists to avoid the use of unnecessary artifice, he brought man closer to nature epitomizing the Korean ideal of intimacy and harmony with nature.[2]

3. Reference

[1] McCann, David R. The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry. New York, Columbia University Press, 2004. p.84

[2] Baek, Seok, et al. Baek Seok: Poems of the North : A View into the Lives and Culture of the People of North Korea. Roseville, Hungry Dictator Press, 2019. p.7, p.16

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