Enjoying Korean and Australian Cultural Differences
- onNovember 14, 2014
- Vol.14 Winter 2011
- byKim Ki-taek
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Australia, twin literary events were held in each country in May and late August 2011. I'm familiar with Australia because I often enjoy its beef and cheese, but Australian literature was totally foreign to me. I therefore greatly anticipated the literary event held Down Under. I was part of a delegation of South Korean poets including Hwang Tong-gyu, Bak Ra-yeon, and Park Hyung- Jun who took part in the August event, which for all of us was our first visit to Australia.
Earlier in May, two poetry readings were held at Seoul Art Space Yeonhui in the Shinchon district in Seoul. The first poetry reading was an informal occasion held at the request of Australian poets interested in meeting their Korean counterparts. As this was an unscheduled event, there were almost no attendees from the reading public, thereby enabling poets from the two countries to recite poems and comfortably chat with one another. It was also a good opportunity for Korean poets to learn about Australian poetry. From Australia, the poets Barry Hill, Terry Jaenche, and Ivy Alvarez were in attendance along with David Prater, managing editor of the Cordite Poetry Review webzine, and University of Melbourne Professor Nicholas Lowe. Representing Korea were Yi Kyunglim, Shim Bo-seon, Kim Un, myself, and others. The poetic styles of all three Australian poets were quite different, giving us the opportunity to enjoy a range of Australian poetry in one sitting. Barry Hill recited a lyrical poem redolent of the Eastern contemplative tradition with its religious and philosophical depth. Terry Jaenche's free-form poetry was at once sentimental and avant-garde, while the work of Ivy Alvarez was concerned with events from everyday life, posing poignant questions about humankind and existence in a humorous but lyrical way.
The second poetry reading held in Korea was attended by the general public on a spring evening, with musical and video performances accompanying poetry readings in a festive atmosphere. In addition to reciting verse, the Australian poets in attendance shared their photos of new cultural experiences acquired in Korea. They also distributed poems and pictures printed on business card stock to all those present. Their freshness, wit, and humor were a great hit with the crowd. The hip-hop artists Swings and Garion energetically recited their rap interpretations of our poems, followed by the singer Sorri's rendition of Korean poetry combined with sweet melodies. Of course poets must also eat, so the highlight of the evening was the post-event dinner consisting of makgeolli (raw rice wine) and jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce). During the relaxed meal everyone enjoyed pleasant conversation.