So Chong-ju

(1915 - 2000)

So Chong-ju was born in 1915 in Kochang, North Cholla Province.  After attending high schools in Seoul and Kochang, he studied Buddhism under Master Pak Han-yong and, in 1935, entered Chungang Buddhist College, which he left after about a year.  In January 1936, he made his poetic debut and, in November of the same year, edited a group anthology Shiin Purak (The Poet’s Village).  He published his first collection of poems Hwasajip (The Flower-snake Collection) in 1941, followed by Kwichokto (Nightingale) in 1946; other collections of poems followed regularly after that.  From 1948, he held posts at a newspaper and in the Ministry of Education; during and after the Korean War, he taught at colleges and universities.  From 1960 to 1979, he was a professor at Tongguk University, of which he was in his later years a professor emeritus.  In later years, he travelled widely in the world.
It is generally agreed that So Chong-ju was the greatest poet of modern Korea. He was by nature a conservative and in his old age was often vilified for the subservient attitude he adopted toward the Japanese, and then the dictators who ruled Korea after Liberation. Throughout his poetic career his work underwent notable changes, but he was always recognized as the most outstanding lyric poet in Korea.  He received numerous awards and translations of his poems have been published in several languages.

Go to the poems...