연보라색 나비가 마비된다
자비의 순간이 언제 올거야?

a lilac butterfly becomes paralyzed
when will mercy’s moment come?



In Korean the words for butterfly, mercy, and paralysis rhyme.  I wrote this short poem to serve as a memorization aid for those three words.

난항/Rough Passage

오래된  그 배는 끊임없는 격랑에 항해한다
부담을 실은 배에 따라 두근거리는 내 가슴은 요동친다
몸은 약하고  지치는데  계속적으로 난 고요한 바다를 기원한다
힘들고 오랜 항해 후 육지에 올랐다
영원히 무거운 눈꺼풀을 감는다

This old boat sails through an endless rough sea.
My pounding heart rolls with the burdened ship.
This body is weak and ragged; I pray incessantly for calm waters.
After a long and difficult voyage, land is reached.
Heavy eyelids close forever.


It has been one week since I updated the blog.  I have been busy with work and Korean studies.   Hopefully this lag in updates will not become a trend! 🙂


어두운  그림자는  나타나다
창문밖에  앉아  있는 올빼미가  저보다  훨씬  슬기로운  것 같다
어둠  속을  보는  올빼미가  두렵지  않다

Dark shadows arise.
The owl that is perched outside of the window seems far wiser than I.
He looks into the obscurity and is not afraid.

달을 위한 날개/wings for the sake of the moon

검은 망토 아래, 우아한 별이 숨어 있다
울고있는 달은 안타까운 가곡을 부른다
난 대단한 혼의 눈물을 씻으러 날아간다

Under a black mantle,
       elegant stars are hiding.
The weeping moon,
      hums a pitiful tune.
 I take wing to wipe away the
      tears of the magnificent spirit.

어둠과 함께 춤을 춘다/Dancing with the Darkness

부드러운 그 구름안에 신비감이 있다
두려움 없는 집시처럼 어둠이 온다
조만간 어둠과 나는 함께 춤추겠다

There is mystery inside of that soft cloud.
Darkness approaches like a fearless gypsy.
Before long, he and I will dance together.

토끼 이야기/Rabbit Talk

As a means of preparing for the 중급한국어능력시험 (Intermediate Korean Language Test), I am reading 생쥐와 인간, which is the Korean translation of John Steinbeck’s classic novella Of Mice and Men.  I find that reading a translation of a book that one has already read in one’s native language is an excellent way to build vocabulary and to solidify grammar concepts without having to analyze the characters or the plot on a deep level since presumably you already did that when you approached it in your mother tongue.  I think that the Korean translation is quite accessible for the intermediate Korean learner.   A lot of the vocabulary and grammar are what one would find on the 초급시험 (basic level test), yet there is a sufficient amount of unfamiliar vocabulary too, which makes it a great study tool!

생쥐와 인간

I have always been drawn to Of Mice and Men because of its universal themes of loneliness and friendship as well as Steinbeck’s clean yet masterful narrative.  Over the years it has often been my go to book when I have needed to spend time with an old literary friend, and I thought that there was nothing new that I could learn from reading it again.  Then I hit the top of p.13 in the Korean translation and found myself reading the following sentence over and over again.

노력하고  노력했어.  하지만 소용이 없었어.  그래도 토끼 이야기는 기억해조지.”

“Tried and tried”, said Lennie, “but it didn’t do no good.  I can remember about the rabbits, George.”

Simple minded Lennie can’t remember why he and George were run out of Weed or where they were headed when they stopped to rest at the river.  He can’t recall that George had both work cards from Murray and Ready’s or even that they received the work cards in the first place.  Lennie can’t remember that the “lady” who used to give him mice to play with was his own Aunt Clara.  But, there is one thing that Lennie can remember – the dream of raising rabbits on a small farm with George, a dream which the two men often wax sentimental about.    It appears as if Lennie only remembers that which makes him happy.

Now, I don’t believe that my life would be better if I had an inability to remember negative experiences which precluded me from making good choices, but as I re-read the text, I felt that I could learn something valuable from Lennie.  When I reflect on an unfavorable interaction or experience that did not pan out the way that I had hoped, it is tempting to dwell on only the bad aspects of them.  Or, when I consider my future, I tend to focus on forthcoming struggles and how burdensome they will be.  Wouldn’t it be better if I could take a step back and remember what makes me happy and then focus on the things which bring a smile to my face?  After all, worry and fear are only transitory states that we can certainly pass through if we allow ourselves to remove the albatrosses which weigh on us.  Sometimes, I think we could all benefit from being just a little bit of a Lennie, don’t you?


비밀이 많다/Many Secrets

마음은 창호지처럼…
빛은 그것을 통해 자유롭게 흐르지만 – 속을 들여다 볼 수 없다
우리 문들뒤에 비밀이 많다

the heart is like shoji paper…
light flows freely through it – but you cannot see inside
behind our doors there are many secrets




image credit: www.ufokim.com

깃털이 있는 의복/feathered garments

쥐색 양말 한쌍이  빨랫줄에 걸려 있다
급작스럽게 북쪽에서 강풍이 불어온다
말없이 깃털있는 의복은 순식간에 달아난다

A somber pair of socks cling to a clothes line
as a strong wind whips in abruptly from the north.
Without a word, the feathered garments instantly take flight.


*Korean translation edited for clarity by Seok Jin Wook