"Freedom" by Kim Seong-min

  • onFebruary 16, 2015
  • Vol.26 Winter 2014
  • byKim Seong-min




                                        by Kim Seong-min


Mine, essentially,

yet at the same time something we never had from birth.

Not an object,

yet something our parents took away.

Not only the sorrow of the hungry,

not the muffled sigh of those who wish for much.


Without it even alive we die, freedom, life!

Living with us, though we die, freedom!



originally published in North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Literature (2014 1st Issue p. 91)



I used to have a certain idea of freedom.

     When I was living in the North, I thought that freedom meant being loyal to the Party and the Great Leader, and that there could be no other freedom outside of that loyalty.

     I truly believed that to live freely meant to obey the Party in every way, doing only things I was told to do and not doing things I was forbidden to do, giving myself up entirely.

     If freedom is defined as “the state of being able to exercise one’s free will without any outside constraint,” the only way to avoid such constraint was to be loyal.

     It was only after coming to South Korea that I realized, looking back, that my brethren in the North never knew the true meaning of freedom, or rather, that they were born into a state without it.

     This unalienable right that was denied to us by birththat is why I treasure my freedom all the more today. 



by Kim Seong-min



* picture information:

Even with Two Wings, Birds Can't Fly / Sunmu / oil on canvas / 2009 91 x 116 cm