As far as we can see, Hakjung Kim’s work has yet to be translated into English. This will be an opportunity to discover his work afresh.
A discussion with poet Hakjung Kim
In August we will have a special event as a part of our Korean Literature Night (KLN) with poet Hakjung Kim and this event will be presented at the KCCUK.
Poet Hakjung Kim will share his thoughts about why writing as a minority voice in contemporary Korea matters. With the moderator Eugene Kim, Hakjung Kim will explore the particulars of his poems, focusing on the theme of disability. In his poems, a blind person does not refer to a disabled person – they can visualize the oddities of the existing system using their whole body. For that very reason, they are a complex subject. Kim’s poems illustrate his affirmation of life and ideas despite physical difficulties, as he asserts in his first poetry collection Genesis.
Genesis and A Submarine that doesn’t give up
A Mural and Genesis 5, the two selected poems from Genesis, both illustrate a man’s journey to live in a world that appears as walls and oppressors. Despite the challenge, he finds a fine thread of life as a universe; he endeavours to embrace it through his inner senses. The speaker in A Mural, though being blind, can craft a painting on the wall that blocks him from getting into the world. Similarly, the mapmaker in Genesis 5 can not only draw a map but also flip it to complete the purpose of it. The feeling we get through the poems is sublime, an effort indescribable beyond distinctions.
In his other book, A Submarine that doesn’t give up, the journey is narrated in a lighter tone. We read two poems, My dream is to be an astronaut and The logbook of my home, which portray a speaker I- the seemingly ordinary teenager at school. Through the poems, we realise how the speaker I is a unique person; they help friends who are regarded as a minority in a classroom. I is the one who can calmly stand against prejudice and discrimination.
As the titles of his two books show, Kim’s resistant voice against the challenge imposed on a minority takes the form of depth and existence. To conclude, we read his latest poem, The unconquerable text.
About the author
Kim Hakjung is a Korean poet born with low vision. Born and trained to be a poet in Seoul, he received a PhD in Korean Literature from Kyung Hee University. In his first collection of poetry, titled Genesis (창세), Kim explores the horizon of disability by drawing attention to scenes of mundane. Kim’s poems have been highly acclaimed since his debut- he is the 18th Park In-hwan award winner. He has also published a poetry collection for teenagers, titled A submarine that doesn’t give up.
About the moderator
Kim Eugene is a translator and Korean Lecturer at Kingston University. She is an editor-in-chief at Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature magazine. Born and raised in Incheon, she lives and works in London with her husband and daughter. One of her latest translations, My Itchy Middle Finger, won the Overseas Publishing Grant from Literature Translation Institution of Korea (LTI) in 2021.