Hearts Pay Tribute to “Big, Soft Hands”

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of the poet Pak Mogwol. Pak Mogwol, whose given name was Yeong Jong-in, was born on January 6th, 1915. By way of a recommendation from Chong Chi-yong, he debuted in 1939 in the literary magazine Munjang. After his debut, Mogwol published in Cheongnokjib along with the poets Cho Chi-hun and Pak Tu-jin; together they became widely known as the “Cheongnokpa” (Green Deer Group) and were influential in guiding the path of Korean lyric poetry. There is no hesitation in calling Pak Mogwol our “National Poet” because so many of his outstanding lyric poems, such as “The Wayfarer,” “The Mountain Peach,” “April,” and “Song of April,” are held in the hearts of the nation. His students and those who cherish his memory have come together over the past year to celebrate the centennial of his birth with academic conferences, exhibitions, musical performances, and a variety of other events, as well as the publication of a memorial book, CD, and more. These diverse events and commemorative projects happening all over the country were only possible due to the many people who have been missing their “National Poet.”

     The various events for the 100th Anniversary of the poet’s birth have been accomplished through the combined efforts of four organizations: the Mogwol Literary Forum, Hanyang University, the Tong-ni·Mogwol Memorial Society, and the poetry journal Simsang.

     The first event was a dinner jointly hosted by the Mogwol Literary Forum, Hanyang University, the Tong-ni·Mogwol Memorial Society, and Simsang Publishers. The dinner was held on the anniversary of Mogwol’s death, March 24th, at Literature House Seoul, where around 150 guests, including veteran poets like Kim Jong-Gil, and Mogwol’s former students were in attendance for the event, which covered all aspects of the literary world.

     It was at this dinner that the head of the Mogwol Literary Forum, Lee Geon Cheong, made the following summation of Mogwol’s poetry: “In spite of living through the situation where the Japanese Colonial Government had attempted to erase the Korean language, Mogwol’s poetry faithfully expresses elements in Korean lyric poetry that have the feel of our language and an inherently Korean sentiment.” Many poets, such as Lee Keun-bae and Yoo An-Jin also reminisced about Mogwol’s tender side, conveying that he was more than just a literature teacher, he was a teacher of life. Poets including Shin Dalja, Kim Jong-hae, Lee Sang-ho, and Na Tae-joo recited a selection of his poems.

     Matching up perfectly with the timing of the memorial dinner, the Mogwol Literary Forum, which is composed of Mogwol’s former students, published a collection of poems dedicated to their teacher titled Lonesome Hunger. This collection includes elegies from forty poets who were either able to debut due to Mogwol’s recommendation or who studied under him at Hanyang University.

     Hanyang University is the school that nurtured Mogwol’s students since he was appointed a professor there in 1962. The Hanyang University Museum held a special exhibition in honor of the centennial of his birth. This exhibit, which opened on April 24th and will run through the end of the year, has attracted much attention, not only for being a showcase of Mogwol’s poetic success, but also because it includes letters he sent to his students as well as other personal effects that show his human side. In addition, an academic seminar titled “The ‘Nowness’ and Re-recognition of Pak Mogwol’s Literature” took place on April 25th. This seminar provided an opportunity for six professors, including Yoo Jong-ho, Lee Namho,...