[Web Exclusive] Interview with Shin Yong-mok: Connecting Hearts and Souls

  • onSeptember 1, 2019
  • Vol.45 Autumn 2019
  • byKorean Literature Now


Shin: I once travelled to Vietnam and met a poet there, who asked me ‘Do you believe that our souls are in tune with humanity?’ Back then, I did not fully grasp what he meant. There are ongoing armed conflicts around the world, turning people into refugees every day. When people suffer from disputes somewhere in the world, their pain is bound to reach us at some point. That happens, not in a materialized or fenced-off world, but during the process of connecting hearts and souls. I believe literature is what reveals that process. That’s the reason why we still write and read poetry in this hectic age, where people are so committed to making ends meet. 


KLN: How do you feel about meeting international readers? 

Shin: From the perspective of literature or poetry, the human body is like a pouch that holds sorrow, joy and lonesomeness. The book fair will give us a chance to draw out secrets from each other’s pouch. I very much look forward to it.


KLN: What kind of communal sentiments can be induced by poetry? What do you want overseas readers to take away from your poems? 

Shin: In today’s society, people want to turn into commodities. We can say that time belongs not to humans but to material goods. There are several ways to regain human time. We can turn to religion, practice Zen meditation or even start a social movement. Ultimately though, I believe the answer lies in building sympathy among humans. 

I’ll be introducing five of my poems this time. They mostly explore pain and sorrow in the midst of social turbulence in Korea. Though trapped in your own body, you can still set yourself free and reach out to someone else, so that you can examine their hue and fragrance. This is what I’d like to get across through my poetry. 


English subtitles translated by Helen Cho