Pak Chae-sam 

Pak Chae-Sam was born in Tokyo, Japan in, 1933, but he moved to Samchunpo in Korea, his mother's hometown, when he was four. He attended the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Korea University but left without a degree. He established himself as a promising poet by publishing "In the River" in Munye (Literature and Art) in 1953 and "Providence" and "Stillness" in Hyundae Munhak (Modern Literature) in 1955. His first book of poems, The Mind of Chunhyang, was published in 1962. Since then he has published numerous books of poems including In the Sunshine (1970), A Thousand Year-old Wind (1975), Besides the Young Ones (1976), The Autumn Tree Listening to the Rain (1981), My Love (1985), An Autumn River In Tears Afire (1987), and The Trace of the Sun and the Moon (1990). He has also won several awards including The Literature of Peace Award in 1987 and Cho Yeon-Hyun Literature Award in 1988.  
Pak Chae-Sam's poetry is a linguistic and artistic celebration of the indigenous Korean language and the traditional Korean sentiment called han, sadness and woe suppressed and coagulated in the heart. His poetry claims that we have to restore a linguistic sense embedded in Korean language and the archetypal sentiment of han in order to fully develop the potential of Korean poetry. Pak creates a poetic world full of intimate and secret conversations and monologues by adopting indigenous, colloquial language. In his poetry han, often induced by an unattainable or unfulfilled love, is not something that persists and suppresses the poet forever; it is usually sublimated into beauty. Pak's poems are also dense with natural images such as rivers, brooks, trees, leaves, wind, sunshine, and moonlight. In his poetry, as we can see in the following translations, nature is not a mere object to appreciate but signifies a perfect world in which principles of human life and eternal beauty are embodied. Thus, the wandering poet suffering from archetypal grief and a sense of personal imperfection finds ultimate consolation and the fundamental truth of life in nature.  
Pak Chae-sam's poems have been given unstinted praise and welcome by the reading public who seek poetry deeply rooted in traditional Korean sentiments. In fact, he has been recognized by literary critics as a poet who has successfully addressed traditional Korean sentiments following Kim So-wol and Suh Jung-joo. Moreover, the simple and beautiful colloquial language and description of familiar natural scenes have made him one of the most adored and influential poets in Korea.  

First Love 

That person was my first love.  
After kissing me  
she couldn't raise her head  
I, too, cast my eyes away.  
Silky tresses  
gently swaying in the sky  
the fresh seaweed smell permeating  
unwittingly my heart in pain,  
that smell on my hands remained.  

Oh, shame! Oh, writhing!  
Look at the stream  
drawn through the valley  
wearing scales of water  
the current is weeping.  
Following the weeping current  
the overlain moonlight  
was also weeping.  

An Autumn River In Tears Afire 

When my mind cannot even sit in one place  
joining the autumn sunlight as my playmate  
I follow a friend's sorrowful story.  
Tears come to my eyes as we unwittingly  
approach the mountain ridge.  

Though the lights at my ancestral home  
are lit for our forebears' rites,  
I watch the autumn river at sunset in tears afire.  

Look at that! Look at that!  
Neither you, neither I  
Joyful first love, the sound of mountain water disappears,  
the sorrow of my next love's end melts away,  
now I see for the first time  
the silent autumn river  
nearing the sea with an unhinging story.  


Perhaps it's a persimmon tree,  
a tree yielding the fruit of my heart's love  
ripening by the sad glow of the sky.  

It seems that there's nowhere but the Otherworld  
where it can grow as it should  
and even there it spreads behind the person I remember  
and bends over their head for the last time.  

However, I don't know  
perhaps this person may become the beloved fruit  
they wished to plant in their front yard!  
In other words I don't know if they'd even realize  
that its color is all my griefs and all my hopes  
from a past life!  
But, then again,  
whether they lived in this world in grief or not  
I don't know, I don't know.  

A Rainy Day 

One afternoon in May  
a flowerless magnolia  
is drenched in rain.  
Bare magnolia with green leaves alone  
is drenched in rain.  

My broken-hearted sister  
her heart wholly torn apart  
once again  
receiving a letter  
from one who cannot come.  

Ah, tears pouring from the sky  
pooling on the earth  
this rainy day!  

A Tree 

Behold the waves of leaves  
forever swaying  
in the sun and breeze!  

the waves of your long skirt  
touch my giddy head  
troubles unravel like a song.  
Isn't this not so?  

A myriad acts of love and still a thirst unquenched,  
bubbles endlessly arising  
and even yet endlessly disappearing vanities,  
my beautiful one,  
should the brilliant love  
of that trembling tree be gone,  
there's nothing left to do in this world.  

Translated by Professor Kang Ja-mo and Frank Tedesco