[KS] Mok Sun-Ok
Afostercarter at aol.com
Afostercarter at aol.com
Sat Aug 28 11:02:52 EDT 2010
Such sad news.
Brother Anthony kindly introduced me to Mok Sun-Ok.
Ever since, I never failed to visit her tiny cafe for a
restorative daechucha. Seoul's bustle melts away there.
She was very remarkable - and will live on in her book,
which Anthony did us all a great boon by translating.
It's available from Seoul Selection: see below.
I sometimes think modern Korea has had more than its share
of extraordinary lives. Hers was astonishing, and humbling.
Requiescat in pace.
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds
E: _afostercarter at aol.com_ (mailto:afostercarter at aol.com)
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Flat 1, 40 Magdalen Road, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4TE, England, UK
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"wonderful translation . . . It's the best book of prose I've read from
Korea. nothing like it, nothing close." (Professor David McCann, Harvard
University) "absolutely engrossing, absorbing and engaging" (C. Yun) The Fate
Called a Poet's Wife Memoir of Mok-sun-ok, wife of deceased poet Chon
Sang-pyong A deeply personal account of life as a poet's wife is now available in
English. Mok Sun-ok, poet Chon Sang-pyong's wife of over 20 years, writes
about her years with the poet in My Husband the Poet, published by Seoul
Selection. Dead poets are usually quickly forgotten in Korea, yet his is still
a familiar name to most Koreans. Younger people know him as the poet with
a childlike heart who wrote the beautiful poem "Kwichon" that they read in
high school. Older people remember him as a picturesque eccentric who
enjoyed hanging out with artistic, bohemian friends in the bars of Myeong-dong,
drinking makkolli, talking and laughing loudly, and writing poems and
essays for a pittance. Likewise, anyone familiar with Insa-dong knows the tiny
tea-house also called "Kwichon," which is run by the poet's wife since 1985.
Since his death in 1993, the story of their life together has been
portrayed in stage plays, musicals, and TV dramas: his life in total poverty, his
arrest and torture on the groundless suspicion of being a spy, his dramatic
disappearance, then reappearance just when his friends had concluded he
was dead, his love of children, and above all, the faithful and selfless care
he received through twenty years from Mok Sun-ok, his wife. It is entirely
thanks to her efforts that now, a dozen years after his death, Chon
Sang-pyong is commemorated by memorial stones in several parts of the country and
an annual Chong Sang-pyong Literary Award, as well a yearly Chon
Sang-pyong Festival in Uijongbu, where he lived, died and is buried. Herself a
survivor of the Hiroshima atom bomb, Mok Sun-ok wrote and published the story of
their life together soon after he died. Mok Sun-ok has previously
described Chon Sang-pyung as "having the innocence of a 7-year old." In the book,
she tells the story of living with her childlike husband, who writes like an
angel but has no other abilities. It is Mok Sun-ok who has to take care of
him like a baby, while keeping up the teahouse. People who know the couple
say that without her patience and selflessness, his writings would not
have been possible. Through its frank and honest narrative, the book offers
interesting insights into one of Korean literature's most famous couples.
English translation was undertaken by Brother Anthony, professor of English
literature at Sogang University. About the book, he says, "It is a remarkable
story, a beautiful one; very "Korean" in the way it is told, and one that
many people across the world ought to read. It is intensely human, funny and
sad at the same time." This is the 20th volume he has published of
translations from Korean. Beginning in 1990, most of his work has been on poetry,
including a volume of poems by Chon Sang-pyong published in the United
States at Cornell University in 1995, then reprinted in a bilingual edition by
DapGae (Seoul) that has gone into 17 reprints so far. Other translations he
has published include several volumes of works by Ko Un, and by Ku Sang,
by So Chong-ju, Shin Kyong-Nim, Kim Kwang-kyu etc. In the coming weeks he
will be publishing 4 more volumes: translations of poems by Kim Kwang-kyu, by
Ko Un, and by Mah Chonggi, and a book about Korean green tea written by
himself in English.
In a message dated 8/27/2010 19:28:29 GMT Daylight Time,
ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr writes:
I am sorry to report the death on August 26 of Mok Sun-Ok, the widow of
the poet Chon Sang-Pyong. Some members of this list will have been to the
little cafe "Kwichon" which she first opened in Seoul's Insa-dong in 1985 and
which she kept open every day of the year until very recently, although the
original shack was demolished and replaced by a concrete bunker several
years ago, with loss of most of the original charm. Her life-story with that
of Chon Sang-Pyong (which she told in a book I translated, "My Husband the
Poet") is a remarkable tale. Having survived the Hiroshima atom bomb which
killed her father, she agreed to become the wife / carer of her brother's
friend Chon Sang-Pyong after his 1971 breakdown and shared his poverty until
he died in 1993. After that she played the leading role in maintaining and
promoting his memory, which finally resulted in the annual arts festival
bearing his name held in Uijeongbu each April. She was still looking after
her mother, who was born in 1910, when she died. Her niece operates a second
"Kwichon" cafe in Insadong, serving the same home-made fruit teas, but for
many people Mok Sun-Ok was a unique witness to a bygone Seoul, expressed
by the flow of older writers, artists, musicians and youger workers and
students coming to pay their respects. The funeral will be this Sunday.
Sogang University, Seoul
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