Dearest Seonsaengnim, the news of your passing came so unexpectedly.
It seems like only yesterday when you would greet us with your warm welcoming smile—how could you have parted from us so soon?
Was it because you missed your hometown so much that you left your body behind and departed with just your soul?
You were to us the icon of division and division literature. After leaving your home and family in the North and setting off southwards, as a witness who has endured all the wounds and ordeals brought by division, your path in life followed the same route as the twists and turns of our country’s history. Division colored your entire world, the subject of your existence; and exploring this with every fiber of your being, you stood tall in the wide forest of division literature.
There is one image that always comes to mind when I think of you. It is the scene from 2000 when separated family members were meeting in a room in Pyongyang. You were reunited with your younger sister for the first time in fifty years. Amid that bitter scene, where longing and regret flowed out as tears, you comforted your sister with a smile and encouragement, saying, “Let’s not cry.” Your brave composure stood in contrast to that of all the weeping families.
The reason I recount this memory is because, in truth, I think your literature is just the same. In the long sixty-five-year journey of your work you have been neither fierce nor loud, but serene and still. Your composure has been like a great river, carrying in its deep waters the agony, longing, anger, and grief along in its calm current.
The journey of your life is bound, without excess or affectation, in your literary works such as in “Big Mountain,” which recounts your memories of the large mountain that stood tall near your hometown, holding the smaller mountains in its embrace; “Far fro...