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K-Literature: An Evening with Acclaimed Poet Chung Ho-seung

The Korean Cultural Center Washington, D.C. is pleased to welcome acclaimed Korean poet Chung Ho-seung for a K-Literature reading, discussion, and reception, introducing the poet to overseas fans and new American audiences alike. Chung, celebrated for deeply human and empathetic poetry, will discuss his major works, reflections on the writing life, and the vivid Korean literature scene today.

Chung has become one of Korea's most well-known and popular poets today. His writing themes include societal schisms, poverty, and alienation of the individual, but his writing presents these topics with lyrical grace and innocence, drawing upon familiar styles from folk songs or popular ballads. 

Full English/Korean translation provided. To read a selection of his works in translation, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

WHAT: Poetry reading, discussion with the writer, and reception 
WHO: Korean Poet Chung Ho-seung
WHEN: Friday, March 20, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Korean Cultural Center Washington, D.C. (2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW)
CONTACT: Hungu Lee | hgl1130@koreaembassy.org | (202) 797-6345
HOW: Free RSVP below. 

Poetic Duty 
Thematically, Chung’s poetry tells the story of contradictions in society and the people tormented by poverty and alienation. But in style, his poetry is characterized by lyrical beauty and a quality of innocence that allow his message of compassion for people to resonate and touch, rather than moralize and enlighten. A fine example of his poetic approach can be found in “From Sadness to Happiness.” Like a poem written for a child, it personifies happiness and sadness and captures the cruelty of people who ignore the hardships of others and seek happiness in material life. 

Chung considers it his poetic duty to record the suffering of people and discover in their despair a glimmer of hope for a better future, with firm faith in humanity. In “Seoul Gospel 2”, the poet writes eloquently, “Still the only freedom you have is the freedom to love/ Where the sun shines every day/ Sow the seeds of longing and waiting.”

About the Poet
Born in South Gyeongsang Province, on January 3, 1950, Chung Ho-seung grew up in Daegu, and graduated in Korean literature from Kyung Hee University. In that same year he began to contribute to the literary magazine Anti-Poetry and in 1982 he published his first novel, A Memorial Service for the Departed. He was the winner of the Tenth Dong Seo Literary Prize (1997) and the Kim Sowol Poetry Prize (1989), and was awarded at the Hankook Ilbo New Spring Literary Contest (1972), the Chosun Ilbo New Spring Literary Contest (1973), the Daehan Daily New Spring Literary Contest (1973), and the Chosun Ilbo New Spring Literary Contest (1982). His major works include From Sadness to Happiness [슬픔이 기쁨에게] (1979), Jesus of Seoul (1982), I Am a Man Because I Am Lonely (1998), The Stars are Warm [별들은 따뜻하다] (1990), Die While Loving [사랑하다가 죽어버려라] (1997), and Ride a Train When You Feel Like Crying [눈물이 나면 기차를 타라] (1999).

K-Literature events hosted by the Korean Cultural Center Washington, D.C. are designed to highlight emerging and established writers, both Korean and American, whose works inform and illuminate Korean culture and experiences worldwide. Events serve as a platform for author-reader interaction, literary discussion, networking among enthusiasts, and a showcase of upcoming works.




Selected Works by Chung Ho-seung


To the Daffodil


Don’t cry.

Because you are lonely, you are human.

To live is to endure loneliness.

Don’t wait for the call that’s not coming.

When it snows, walk on the snowy path.

When it rains, walk on the rainy path.

At the reed forest, the black-breasted longbill is watching you.

At times, even God sheds tears, feeling lonely.

Because of loneliness the birds are sitting on the boughs.

Because of loneliness you are sitting by the stream.

Once a day, even the mountain shadow comes down to the village, feeling lonely.

Even the bell rings outward, out of loneliness.


Jesus of Seoul


1

Jesus casts a fishing rod and sits by the Han River.

He makes a campfire at the riverside and dries his wet clothes.

Every day wild grass collapses, pierced by the swords of humans,

and a flower of a human that is like grass blooms and withers.

To see humans become beautiful, Jesus, who is wet with the winter rain,

is crying, leaning against the wall of the Westgate detention center.


Note: sections 2-3 are omitted here. 


4

I want to drink a human cup.

I want to meet a person of beautiful memories

and exchange Soju cups and share mung-bean pancakes made of tears.

I want to hear a human’s dress brush grass blades on a spring day

when a petal falls like a knife,

and want to live in the country of people rather than the country of hearts.

I want to kindle alone the lamp of Seoul

so that human lamps will not go out on at dawn;

I yearn for the longing of Seoul,

leaning against a poor person’s window.


5

Those who worship me are sorrowful,

and those who feel sad for me are sorrowful.

Those who are joyful for me are sorrowful,

and those who mourn for me are more sorrowful.

I have not suffered for my neighbors,

and I have not looked up at the stars of the poor.

Those who call on my name with all their hearts are unfortunate,

and those who love my name with all their hearts are more unfortunate.


Persons I Love


I do not love those who do not have their shadows.

I do not love those who do not love their shadows.

I do love those who become the shade of the tree.

The sunlight is bright because it has its shade.

Sitting in the shade of a tree, I see the glistening sunlight coming through the leaves.

How beautiful the world is!


I do not love those who don't have their tears.

I do not love those who do not love tears.

Pleasure is not pleasure if it does not have tears.

Sitting in the shade,

I see those who wipe out someone's tears.

How beautiful the world is!