Kim Kwang-kyu was born in Seoul in 1941. After graduating from the German Department of Seoul National University, he studied in Germany. He is at present a professor in the German Language and Literature department at Hanyang University. He initiated his literary career in 1975 with the publication of "Shiron" (Ars Poetica) and other poems in the review Munhakkwa Chisong. In the same year he published a volume of his translations of poetry by Heinrich Heine and Gunter Eich. This was followed in 1985 by a volume of translations of poetry by Bertolt Brecht.  
His published volumes of poetry include Urirul choksinun majimak kkum (1979), Anida kurohchi ant'a (1983), K'unaksanui maum (1986), Chompaengich'orom (1988), Aniri (1990), Mulkil (1994). A selection from his first three volumes was translated into English and published in England as Faint Shadows of Love (Forest Books) in 1991.  
His poems are characterized by a plainness of style and presentation close to prose, yet they nonetheless never lose the essential poetic tension, perhaps because of their skillful use of irony and satire. He has written much poetry sharply critical of the abuses of human dignity caused by corrupt politics and the structural contradictions brought about by the industrialization of society.  
His subtle protests at the dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s were especially prized and he is also one of the first Korean poets to write on the themes now known as 'ecological' with his feeling for the ravages society has wrought on the world of nature. From time to time he writes poems indicating ways in which transcendent experiences can occur even to people living in the radically secularized and unreligious present. His delicate touches of humor distinguish him from most modern Korean poets.  

Workers' Day  

Today the car-park is completely empty.  
The parking attendant has not come to work either.  
All day long the sunshine streams down  
on the open space, stained with splashes of oil;  
from time to time pigeons come in search of food,  
  the wind blows past.  
With no sign of people working,  
no trace of things left lying around,  
empty, open to the sky, this patch of ground  
has thrown off every unjust occupier  
and for a moment reclaimed its rights  
as it enjoys its rest; today let's not call  
this open space a car-park.  

Narrative 8  

Wearing Dad's old clothes cut down to their size  
and seeing winter nights out gnawing  
the peeled stump of a cabbage root,  
my younger brothers with their hair cut short  
grew up fine.  
My sisters used to enjoy dates in Sajik Park.  
We had nothing to be ashamed of.  
Our poverty was our good conscience  
and all our treasure.  
Ah, sons and daughters,  
you've sold that last treasure  
to buy videos and aircons and sports-cars.  
What need is there for you to hide your faces  
under that thick make-up,  
somehow feeling ashamed, perhaps,  
dress up like actors or singers,  
play the stock market?  
What you need to recover,  
dear daughters-in-law and sons-in-law,  
is not the treasure your parents bequeathed,  
it's the poverty you've forgotten about.  

Fussing and Fretting  

As I left the bank after withdrawing  
some small change, the icy wind  
ruffled my hair.  
The image of that dignified borrower  
sitting in the lending clerk's reception area:  
there was no way I could pass through Shinch'on  
without treading on ground belonging to him.  
The sidewalk glistening with artificial marble  
was disfigured by messy blobs of gum.  
Beneath the street, subway trains were speeding.  
Below them again subterranean rivers flowed  
and at levels lower still  
rocks in flames were burning crimson.  
At least I'm lucky to have been born  
in a country free of earthquakes.  
In a corner of this ball of earth  
with five billion people living on it,  
one slice of Seoul  
where ten million citizens swarm:  
that piece of land, that will not fit  
into any safe, had been the possession  
of that real estate broker. He had freely  
conveyed it, mortgaged it, sold it  
while I had floundered about on it  
working all day long  
in order to earn some small change  
that I spent my life carefully hoarding,  
fussing and fretting.  

North South East West  

In spring a flood of tender green goes rising  
spreading northward, northward.  
Unhindered by barbed wire or military demarkation line  
it journeys north.  
Rising over mountains  
crossing plains,  
azaleas and forsythias cross the border north.  
In summer the cuckoo's call,  
the croak of frogs,  
are just the same in every place.  
In fall a flood of golden hues comes dropping  
spreading southward, southward.  
Unhindered by demilitarized zone or lines forbidding access  
it journeys south.  
Crossing rivers  
passing over valleys  
cosmos flowers and crimson leaves cross the border south.  
In winter the taste of ice-cold pickle  
the taste of spicy morning soup  
are just the same in every place.  
North South East West: making no distinction,  
covering everywhere alike  
in white, no one can keep back  
the snowstorm.  

A slide  

In the shantytown's playground, snot-nosed kids  
are busy playing on a slide.  
Storming up the steps of the slide  
they come swooshing down again.  
All day long from morning to night  
you play on the slide  
until the seats of your pants wear out.  
Why you keep on sliding down?  
No one ever asks.  

High up in the distant Alps,  
people climb to near the Matterhorn  
then go irresistibly sliding  
down dazzling white sheets of ice.  
Skiers thronging from all over the world,  
all sorts of little folk playing about  
look far smaller than any ant  
on the broad breast of fathers soaring aloft  
in the gentle embrace of mothers flowing down.  
You all go sliding fearlessly  
down steep snowy slopes.  
Why do you keep on sliding down?  
No one ever asks.  

Translated by Brother Anthony.