- Silk Mountain at the South Sea
Poets have always had an uncomfortable relationship with the age in which they live. Such is the discord modern literature has by birth. Georg Lukács has said that literature is the logic that seeks truth in life with subversive methods in a restless era.
It is necessary to call our attention to a Korean history that has gone through a number of upheavals in the past century. In the last 100 years, Korea entered the modern era through colonial rule, was liberated, fought an ideological war (Korean War), and endured decades of military dictatorship. Politics were always unstable and the times were always turbulent. Human rights were easily ignored under the military dictatorship and a great number of people died of torture and lynching. The most terrible scene of massacre was the Gwangju Uprising that took place in May 1980.
It was still a long time before Korea became democratized even after the Gwangju Uprising. It might be too much of a reductive error to link modern Korean poetry with the hardships of the times simply because Korean history has been full of upheavals. Poets are the ones, however, who respond most acutely to the oppression of the times. Korean poets in particular have internalized the idea that they should voice their opinions on politics and the age they live in. This is perhaps a natural result of an overly turbulent national history.