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Ki Hyongdo

Ki Hyongdo scrap

기형도

  • Category

    Poetry

  • Target User

    Adult 성인

  • Period

    Contemporary 현대

Author Bio 작가 소개

Ki Hyongdo (1960-1989) was a modern South Korean poet.

1. Life

Ki Hyongdo was born the youngest of seven children in 1960 in Yeonpyeong, Gyeonggi Province. Ki's childhood was marred by poverty after his father suffered a stroke and was left unable to work. As a middle school student, Ki began writing poetry after his closest sister was murdered by a fellow church member. He began publishing his poems during his college years at Yonsei University, where he majored in political science. While working as a politics reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo in 1985, he made his literary debut winning the Dong-a Ilbo New Writer's Contest with his poem "Angae" (안개 Fog), a stinging critique of Korea's industrializing society. In 1986, he requested to be transferred to the paper's culture section, where he covered cultural events, publications and TV dramas. In the summer of 1988, he traveled to London and Paris, and transferred to the paper's editing section. On March 7, 1989, he died suddenly of a stroke at the Pagoda Theater in Jongro. His posthumous collection of poems Ip sogui geomeun ip (입 속의 검은 잎 Black Leaf in My Mouth) has gone through more than 86 printings in the three decades since his death.

2. Writing

Ip sogui geomeun ip, Ki's first and last poetry collection, is marked by a powerful individuality and intensely pessimistic worldview addressing themes of helplessness, longing, disappointment and anger. His untimely death added a sense of tragedy to the sorrow and despair already present in his works. 

The poet's earliest pain can be traced back to his childhood. In "Eomma geokjeong" (엄마 걱정 Worrying About Mom), the poet recalls his loneliness as a child when his mother would go out to work and not come back until late into the night. Another source of pain is parting with loved ones. “Bin jip” (빈 집 Empty House) begins with the lines, "My love is gone and I write/ Goodbye, short nights," after which the poet bids farewell to everything else: the fog outside the window, the candles in the room, the white papers, the reluctance filled fears, and all his past desires, and finally writes, "My poor love is locked in an empty house." Just as in “Eomma geokjeong,” the poet has shut his wounds in a small room and is now looking back in longing.

The poet’s gloom and isolation are directly related to the atmosphere of oppression and fear that was widespread throughout Korean society in the 1980s. As in the titular poem: “That summer, people disappeared in heaps/ and reappeared suddenly before the silence of the shocked/ the streets overflowed with the tongues of the dead.” Such indiscriminate violence is depicted to have taken root even in daily life. The fear felt has its peak where the phantom of the dead is overlapped with confession: “I pass this wilderness, this twilight, for the first time/ I’m afraid of the black leaf sticking stubbornly in my mouth.” If the “black leaf” refers to the deaths of nature and humans, the “black leaf in my mouth,” a metaphor for a stiff tongue, signifies that the life of the silent is no different from death. [1]

It was the literary critic Kim Hyun who chose the collection's title. Ki Hyongdo's initial title, "Jeonggeojangeseoui chunggo" (정거장에서의 충고 Warning at the Station), from a poem published in 1988, became the title for the memorial anthology published upon the 20th anniversary of his passing. The poem's first line begins: "I'm sorry but now I shall sing of hope."

3. Reference

[1] Korean Literature Now. Vol.8, Summer 2010. https://kln.or.kr/lines/reviewsView.do?bbsIdx=1415

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