I wanted to share a poem – my favorite Korean one so far. I first discovered it when I was in my first years of college and even though my Korean is less than fluent, this one really speaks to me. Dong-Ju Yun, the poet, wrote and lived during the Japanese occupation of Korea and although he is writing with a completely different context from mine, we share something. So here is the poem in the original language and following is my poor man’s translation. If your Korean is better, please feel free to improve this translation or add to the commentary.
길 : 윤동주 시
무얼 어디다 잃었는지 몰라
두 손의 호주머니를 더듬어
돌과 돌과 돌이 끝없이 연달아
길은 돌담을 끼고 갑니다.
담은 쇠문을 굳게 담아
길 위에 긴 그림자를 드리우고
길은 아침에서 저녁으로
저녁에서 아침으로 통했습니다.
돌담을 더듬어 눈물짓다
쳐다 보면 하늘은 부끄럽게 푸릅니다.
풀 한 포기 없는 이 길을 걷는 것은
담 저 쪽에 내가 남아 있는 까닭이고
내가 사는 것은 다만
잃은 것을 찾는 까닭입니다. (1941.9.31)
I lost something.
What or where I lost it I don’t know.
Hopelessly digging through my pockets, I set out on the road.
Stone after stone endlessly connected
The road goes alongside the stone wall.
There is a well locked iron gate
Casting a long shadow on the road
The road goes from morning to evening
And evening to morning.
Feeling the stone wall with tearful eyes
Looking up the sky shamefully blue
I walk this road without one stalk of grass because
I realize so much of me remains on the other side of the wall
I live only
because I am looking for something I have lost.