As part of the South Bank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus, two Korean poets will be appearing later this month in London and elsewhere. The event, part of the Cultural Olympiad, is designed to bring together writers from every Olympic nation for the 2012 celebrations.
Representing South Korea is Kim Hye-soon:
Kim Hye-soon was one of the first women in South Korea to be published in a literary journal when her work appeared in Munhak kwa jisong (Literature and Intellect) in 1979. She is one of the most important contemporary poets of South Korea. In her experimental work she explores women’s multiple and simultaneous existence as grandmothers, mothers, and daughters in the context of Korea’s highly patriarchal society. She has won numerous literary prizes and was the first woman to receive the coveted Midang (2006) and Kim Su-yong (1998) awards named after two major contemporary poets. She lives in Seoul and teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.
It being rather tricky to identify North Korean poets, a defector going by the name of Jang Jin-seong, currently residing in Seoul, represents the North:
Jang Jin-seong was a former court poet for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. After fleeing to South Korea he became a best-selling author and media sensation. A graduate of Kim Il-sung University, he became a favourite of the Pyongyang government and was twice invited to meet leader Kim Jong-il. After realising that he could no longer live under Jong-il’s regime, he fled that life and all its relative comforts to cross the Tumen River into China, eventually settling in South Korea. There he has just published a volume of poetry, For 100 Won, My Daughter I Sell. Jang Jin-seong uses a pseudonym to avoid endangering relatives left behind in isolated and bankrupt North Korea.
Unfortunately one of the events involving the North Korean poet has been cancelled. The event was described thus:
In an event that will lift you off your seat, we celebrate poetry of resistance, witness and protest with readings from leading poets and spoken word artists including defector poet, Jang Jin Seong who spent his career writing eulogies of Kim Jong-il, before growing disillusioned, hiding 70 poems in his chest and crossing the Tumen River to flee to North Korea.
There are, however, other events:
- Kim Hye-soon appears with Seamus Heaney among others on 29 June at 7pm, in London
- Both poets appear in London on 1 July in a lunchtime event sponsored by the Asia Literary Review
- Both poets will be in Ledbury on 7 July
- Jang Jin-seong will be in Dartington on 11 July
- Jang Jin-seong will be in Ludlow on 12 July
Nice part of the country they’re visiting.
And a third Korean poet, Ra Heeduk (나희덕), who is currently a visiting scholar at SOAS, will be speaking at a Korean literature workshop at the KCC on 26 June. More details here.