A Poet of Gwangju, Yeosu, and the Korean Peninsula
- onSeptember 4, 2018
- Vol.41 Autumn 2018
- byMoon Chung-hee
“Place” in poetry is that fundamental space where a poet’s poetic discourse plays out.
Seo Hyoin writes of Korea, where signs of the most acute conflict and danger on the planet manifest themselves, and speaks of Gwangju, the city of freedom and of wounds, and sings of love at the seaside of Yeosu. The Korean peninsula spent nearly half of the twentieth century under Japanese colonial rule, and since the Korean War, which began in 1950, exists to this very day in a state of division, with north and south in a constant standoff. Well into the twenty-first century, Korea seems fated to be at the fierce focal point of world news.
Seo Hyoin was born in Gwangju in 1981, after the tragic events of the Gwangju Democratization Movement, which opposed the military dictatorship in May 1980, and his poetic world is premised on this historical and spatial background. His poems writhe with a sense of place and with the humming rage of a troublesome youth whose formative years were passed in the violence of the military dictatorship and colored by the worship of development capitalism. In the midst of the conditions of late capitalism, where anxiety and competition endlessly mount, he is a poet who expresses depression and the confusion of any sense of value with the power of narrative.
In doing this, Seo is one of the poets who best represents the characteristics and personality of his generation. Historical wounds, a resistant rhythm, and a rebellious use of prose nestle naturally within his poetic awareness.
In his first poetry collection, Behavior Guidelines for the Boy Partisan, he crafted a real sense of poetic presence that vividly expresses the emotions of those who are suffering.