Tag Archives: 기형도

The Specialist by Ki Hyeong-do

translated from the Korean by geul


The man who moved in was a strange person
The walls around his house were all made of glass

Out of a moment’s error
The careless children playing in the alley
smashed the glass wall that
reflected the abundant sunshine

But children, it doesn’t matter
the glass can always be replaced
play in the alley, as much as you want

The face of the child who broke the glass had turned bright red
but the other children, who had a strange expression on their faces,
soon enjoyed themselves as children will
The child who insisted
How about building the wall out of sturdy pine board
was immediately exiled from that lovely alley

The glass wall was broken anew each day
After a certain requisite period, all the children of the neighborhood
became the man’s faithful subordinate

One day when the man removed the glass walls, it became clear
that the alley was the place that received the least amount of sunlight
the children, standing in a line,
carried bricks back and forth in silence


poem in Korean


Rose-tinted Life by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

A man in his prime opens the door and enters
As he takes off his hat, his salt and pepper hair,
like his shabby overcoat, is revealed
He pushes all that is his into a creaky wooden chair
he wraps his healthy and greedy hands
around a ridiculously small cup
Has he ever, even once, with those large hands,
grabbed a likely opponent by the scruff of his neck
The man is silent, instead of moving his eyes aimlessly,
he is exploiting certain experiences, focusing on one place,
To unravel the knot of crowded events, how many cruel customers did he glower
like that of those who have tasted doubt and temptation many times over
Those shoulders that resolutely refuse any and all disorder of the body
those lips that seemed to be moved by a certain jealousy
ears hidden by a strand of hair, that certainly would have dreamed of being the
However, who would dare to take on that man’s responsibility
The man continues to remain silent, he pulls something from his thick coat
as if he’d just thought of it for the first time
thrusting aside the dogged resistance of loneliness,
as if steeled for any kind of showdown
the man looks around, the expression that walks above his face
He pushes all that is his into a creaky wooden chair
with it he begins to dig into the tabletop
his burly frame bending forward, ploddingly
but anxiously, supplying strength to his own command

I hate life


poem in Korean

Jealousy is my strength by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)


After a long time has passed,
weakened, the book will let fall these pages
Since I erected so many factories* then
foolishly, I had that much more to record
Like a dog roaming here and there under a cloud
I loitered in mid-air, unflagging
owning nothing but sighs
In all the evening streets I left my youth standing staring blankly
Since I counted the days I’ve lived in wonderment
since no one was afraid of me
the substance of my hope was only jealousy
Therefore, first, I leave here a few scribblings
Though I’ve spent my life roving madly looking for love
not once have I loved myself



*The original poem says “factories” (in Korean, of course), but it might be more understandable if you substitute in the word “castles.”

poem in original Korean



College Days by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)


under the wooden chair a pile of books thrown out

the white poplar woods were deep and lovely but

there, even the tree leaves were used as weapons

when they reached the woods, the young men,

as if they had steeled themselves in advance,

passed by with eyes closed; upon the stone steps

I read Plato, always then gunfire rang out

when the magnolia season arrived, friends scattered

****to prison or military service

a lower classman who wrote poetry confessed he was

****a government informant

there was a professor I respected but he was a man of few words

after a few winters passed I became a loner

and then it was graduation, I was afraid of leaving the university


poem in original Korean

Fog by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Morning to evening the canal is wrapped in thick fog.


Anyone who comes to this town for the first time
has to pass through the great river of fog.
They must stand on the long dike like lonely cattle
until the people gone ahead are slowly erased.
Until suddenly they feel how they are confined alone in a hole in the fog and are ***appalled.

On some days the fog’s legion takes not a step from the canal
until the yellow and brittle sun hangs
above the thick air’s sheet of paper.
Late factory girls pass giggling on their way to work
Children seep out sluggishly
between the black and taciturn trees freed from the long darkness.
People unused to the fog, at first for a time,
won’t let down their guard while walking, but soon like everyone else
they bore through the fog this way and that. Habit is
really a convenient thing. Readily the fog becomes part of the family
and like mad they flow along
until the electric pole in the distance reveals its faint torso.

Often on days when there is no fog
all the faces walking along the dike are unfamiliar. Wary of each other
they pass by quickly; clear and melancholy mornings, however,
are rare. That’s because this place is the fog’s sacred ground.
When it grows dark the fog takes off its newly washed clothes layer by layer above the canal. In an instant the air
fills with a white and hard liquid. Plants and factories are sucked up inside and
a man a few steps ahead is cut in two by the fog.

There were also a few small incidents.
In the middle of the night a factory girl was raped.
Though her dormitory was close by, as soon as her mouth was covered
that was the end of it. Last winter
a drunk froze to death on the dike.
A man on a tricycle passing by said that he
thought it was a mound of trash. However, that
was just a personal misfortune, it wasn’t the fog’s fault.

When the fog dissipates near noon
the factory’s chimneys together aim their wet gun barrels
at the sky. Though a few wounded men
have left  this sewer, spewing fierce curses,
they were quickly pushed out of people’s memories.
For not one person has returned to the town.


Morning to evening the canal is wrapped in thick fog.
The fog is the local specialty.
Everyone owns a bit of stock in the fog.
The factory girls’ faces are white and lovely
The children grow up strong and all go to the factory.


poem in original Korean

Old Person by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)


He is easily found out
like some kind of hard lump
unable to flee,
crouching in the shade of the park’s wisteria tree


He is sitting
permitting himself only the smallest of movements
my face, my spread shoulders, firm muscles
quietly licked
by the greedy glint in his eyes


I hate it, his short pants and the
mouth dribbling with spit and
his grizzled mind that’s
unable to perceive this


For the sole reason that I’ve never been there yet
I spit on his world
For the sole reason that he is already a place of exile,
I, protecting my world,
not one step
of his intrusion can I forgive


Suddenly I look at him, at the same instant he
drops his gaze to the foot of the wisteria
fumbling unceasingly with his clothes
still with mouth open
as if there was something he wanted to say, as if inside his body
something still remaining was burdensome



poem in original Korean

Night Snow by Gi Hyeong-do (밤눈, 기형도)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

When your insides are opened the silver threads that froze up and melted oh how many times and that changed places with yet another movement each time the wind blew are tangled up crying.  On the ground the rotten branches under the ice lay prostrate with eyes slivered.  In what color did you dream of yet another love as you nailed low in the sky piece by piece the light that could be given to no one? The savage and silent night in which no one clothed your soul, what remained on the frozen land that kept launching your dance into the air? In the sky in all the spaces you have passed the wind is blowing.  Oh, oh, world full of shadows of poplars, at its end with a temperature unable even to take a first step toward death you are roaming through yet another sky.  When your insides are opened.

poem in original Korean

Sleet by Gi Hyeong-do (진눈깨비, 기형도)

(translated from the Korean by geul)


In good time sleet falls blown here and there
Inside my coat pocket there is a stiff hand
That snow, trudging through streets I don’t know,
Will wander between guys and buildings
I’ve never even seen once before
A rectangular brown envelope falls down over the snowy road, I pause in the
    middle of bending over and
I think: I made quite a few resolutions graduating from college
The sleet falls, there’s nothing to be surprised at, you fickle legs
I once read about this kind of road home in some novel
Memories called forth many times through my shoe soles are stepped on
In a dark alley there is an empty truck stopped with its lights on
Drunken guys fall down, I remember the day sleet fell scattering
There was a time in my youth when I’d ride the bus all day long
Near an old white wall some people in a group brush off the snow
Sleet pours, suddenly tears flow, I’m unhappy


It wasn’t this, I’ve gone through a life time’s worth of experience, sleet


Original Korean version