Ko Un is paying one of his regular visits to the UK in July, with a reading at the KCC on 15 July which follows his appearance at the Ledbury Poetry Festival:
A Poetry Evening with Ko Un
Ko Un with Brother Anthony of Taizé reading in Korean and English
Wednesday 15 July 2015, 7pm followed by a Reception
Korean Cultural Centre UK
Entrance Free but Booking Required
RSVP by the 13 July 2015
E: [email protected]
T: +44(0)20 7004 2600
About the Poet Ko Un
For his keen sensitivity, outstanding powers of intuition, the breadth and depth of his imagination and his skillful use of language, as well as the maturity of his understanding of human life, Ko Un is widely acknowledged to be Korea’s most prolific and revered poet, with an immense literary achievement of 155 books, out of which about 70 are poetry books. One of his works Maninbo: Peace & War was published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK in 2015.
Ko Un was born in 1933 in Gunsan, North Cheolla Province, South Korea. He made his official debut as a poet in 1958 when living as a Buddhist monk. For a decade in the 1960s he practised Seon meditation and travelled throughout the country.
After returning to the secular world in 1962, he dedicated himself thoroughly to nihilism full of desperation and alcohol, producing many striking works. He was awakened to the social reality of his country by the self-immolation of a poor labourer late in 1970 and became engaged in political and social issues, opposing the military regime and joining the struggle for human rights and the labour movement.
For more than a decade, he was persecuted by the military regime for his opposition efforts, with arrests, house arrests and imprisonment a regular occurrence. In 1980 he was sentenced to 20 years, but thanks to international efforts he was set free with a general pardon in 1982, after serving two and a half years’ in solitary confinement.
After getting married at the age of 50, a period of productivity unparalleled in the history of Korean literature began, which one critic has called an “explosion of poetry.” The 7-volume epic Mount Paekdu, a huge 30-volume poetry project Ten Thousand Lives (Maninbo) with over 4,000 poems, a 5-volume autobiography, and numerous books of poems, essays, and novels came pouring out. “He writes poetry as he breathes,’ a literary critic once said. Literary critics often call him the Ko Uns instead of Ko Un because of his incredible volcano of productivity.
Ko Un was invited as a visiting research scholar at the Yenching Institute of Harvard University and at UC Berkeley, and also, more recently, at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy with the title of Honorary Fellow.
He has received some 20 prestigious literary awards and honours at home and abroad, and some 50 volumes of his work have been translated into more than 25 foreign languages He is currently President of the Compilation Committee of the Grand Inter-Korean Dictionary.
About Brother Anthony
Brother Anthony of Taizé (An Sonjae is his Korean name) was born in 1942 in England and completed his studies in the University of Oxford before becoming a member of the Community of Taizé (France) in 1969. Since 1980, he has been living in Korea. He taught English literature at Sogang University, where he is now an Emeritus Professor. Since 2010 he has also been a Chair-Professor at Dankook University. He has published over 30 volumes of English translations of modern Korean literature, including works by Ko Un (10 volumes), the poetry of So Jong-Ju, Ku Sang (6 volumes), Chon Sang-Pyong etc. as well as the novel The Poet by Yi Mun-yol. For his work as a translator he was awarded the Korean Order of Cultural Merit in 2008. Since the start of 2011 he has been President of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch in Seoul.
Please check the video of the reading by Ko Un with Br Anthony at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2012 when First Person Sorrowful was published.