Hearts Pay Tribute to “Big, Soft Hands”
- onDecember 21, 2015
- Vol.30 Winter 2015
- byPark Sang Chun
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, and Lee Jae-bok, to present papers that shed a new light on Mogwol’s literary works.
Hanyang University also published a number of anniversary books and CDs for the occasion. One was a book titled Paiknam’s Music, Mogwol’s Poetry. “Paiknam” Kim Yeon-jun, in addition to being a composer and one of the founders of Hanyang University, composed several songs during Mogwol’s tenure at Hanyang that were based on his poetry. This book, which shines a light on the two artists’ collaboration, has even more significance for the fact that last year marked 100 years since “Paiknam” Kim Yeon-jun’s birth. A CD containing fourteen traditional Korean-style compositions by Paiknam with lyrics by Mogwol was released to commemorate the book’s publication. In addition to this, a collection of Mogwol’s essays titled The Moon and Rubber Shoes was published to highlight his essay writing skills, and was accompanied by a pictorial CD showing various activities from his years at Hanyang.
The Tong-ni·Mogwol Memorial Society is the organization that, in December 2002, founded the Tong-ni·Mogwol Literary Center in the city of Gyeongju. The Tong-ni·Mogwol Literary Center is a shared space which commemorates the two authors’ literary achievements. It was established in Gyeongju (close to Bulguksa Temple) because it is the hometown of both. The writers’ joint memorial society is responsible for holding a variety of events in their honor. These events—including an essay contest on April 19th, followed by a Pak Mogwol musical performance held at the Gyeongju Arts Center on the 29th, and a children’s song competition on May 2nd at Seorabeol Culture Hall—were all held in Gyeongju.
It was particularly poignant that, on July 17th, readings of Mogwol’s poetry and a performance of traditional music were held at the home where he was born, which had been restored in 2014. Mogwol’s birth home is located in Gyeongju-si, Geoncheon-eup, Moryang-ri. The buildings, including the main house, front building, treadmill (foot powered mortar) area, and poetry recitation room were restored, and a boulder engraved with Mogwol’s life story and a statue of the poet were set up as a place to take pictures.
The Tong-ni·Mogwol Memorial Society published a special 100th Anniversary edition of the Tong-ni·Mogwol literary quarterly magazine titled “Shedding New Light on Mogwol’s Literature” and are currently working on having 100 of Mogwol’s poems translated into English, Japanese, and Chinese.
Simsang, a poetry journal founded by Mogwol in 1973, is currently published by Mogwol’s eldest son, Seoul National University Professor Emeritus Park Dong-Gyu together and Simsang Publishers. They held a special event on May 30th for the opening of the “Pak Mogwol Literary Park” in the Yongin Moran Park located in Gyeonggi-do Yongin-si where Pak Mogwol’s grave can be found. It was during the opening ceremony that Professor Park Dong-Gyu announced the plan to publish a handwritten poetry collection comprised of eighty of his father’s handwritten poems.
When his students think of Pak Mogwol, their first thought is of his “Big, Soft Hands,” which doubles as the title of his posthumous poetry collection. This is because, while he was strict in matters of education and poetry, Mogwol had a warm and tender, human side as well. All of the events held nationwide in his name over the past year have not only commemorated his literary success, but have been meaningful for the many people who carry fond memories of his warmth.
by Park Sang Chun
Professor of Culture and Contents