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  • Inscription Etched by Water
  • Pak Tujin (bio)
    Translated by Edward W. Poitras, emeritus professor of world Christianity

Pak Tujin is one of the best-known contemporary Korean poets, widely appreciated by both the reading public and critics. He received virtually every award and prize in Korea for which he was eligible.

Born in Ansoŭng in 1916, Pak began publishing in the 1930s. The suppression of Korean-language literature during the Japanese Occupation prevented his work from becoming known, except among such fellow writers as Pak Mogwoŭl and Cho Chihun, with whom he collaborated on Ch'oŭngnok chip (Blue deer anthology) in 1946. The anthology had a decisive influence upon modern Korean poetry. In 1949, Pak published his own collection of poetry, Sun, which was followed by nine more books of poetry and several of prose.

By the early 1950s, Pak's reputation as a poet was such that he was invited to teach at Yoŭnsei, Ewha, and other universities in Seoul. His poetry of the 1960s through the 1980s took a strong stand against the Korean military dictatorship. In 1996, he was elected to the National Academy of Arts, an honor he had refused to accept while the country was under dictatorial rule. He died in 1998.

One stroke at a time, now and then in spare moments retracing the strokes with water during ten times a hundred thousand years I wrote one word. After a time, later again quietly searching out the place, then my hand's touch exploring gently, retracing each of the strokes, after passing yet again ten times a hundred thousand years, I wrote one word. [End Page 36] In the etched form of each stroke gleamed a gorgeous rainbow, in the sun's rays lighting the water a rainbow of the currents. There were the times once when I listened, inclined my ear to the messages, but having heard then afterward, and afterward recorded the inner sense of those words, now I find that after carving a few ancient characters year upon year, for too long, I have completely forgotten what words I wrote.

Edward W. Poitras, emeritus professor of world Christianity
Southern Methodist University
Pak Tujin

Pak Tujin is one of the best-known contemporary Korean poets, widely appreciated by both the reading public and critics. He received virtually every award and prize in Korea for which he was eligible.

Born in Ansŏng in 1916, Pak began publishing in the 1930s. The suppression of Korean-language literature during the Japanese Occupation prevented his work from becoming known, except among such fellow writers as Pak Mogwŏl and Cho Chihun, with whom he collaborated on Ch'ŏngnok chip (Blue deer anthology) in 1946. The anthology had a decisive influence upon modern Korean poetry. In 1949, Pak published his own collection of poetry, Sun, which was followed by nine more books of poetry and several of prose.

By the early 1950s, Pak's reputation as a poet was such that he was invited to teach at Yŏnsei, Ewha, and other universities in Seoul. His poetry of the 1960s through the 1980s took a strong stand against the Korean military dictatorship. In 1996, he was elected to the National Academy of Arts, an honor he had refused to accept while the country was under dictatorial rule. He died in 1998.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 36-37
Launched on MUSE
2006-08-03
Open Access
No
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