Thursday, October 21, 2010


Han: a collective feeling of lament, suffering and loss.  That's the best definition I can come up with.

It has no translation in the English language.

I thought I could sense this han in you Daniel- this collective consciousness of a small, but strong war-torn country that has suffered and lost so much.  It was built into you, despite the way you appeared to others on the outside.  I saw...

There is no translation, but maybe I feel something like this now...and will feel it twenty years from now even more.

I found a collection of poems by Pak Chaesam that I purchased a few years ago as I've been unpacking books that were stored away for the past two years.  It's translated in English next to the original Korean, and I'm sure it loses much, but here is the poem entitled "Han"


Something like the persimmon tree?
Ripening in the sad evening glow,
the tree where the fruits of my heart's love

With room to spread in the next world only,
still it looms behind the one I was thinking of,
falling down from above her head.

It may yet become the fruit
of her overwhelming grief
that she wished to plant
in the yard of her house.
Or would she understand
if I said it was all my sorrow,
all my hope from a previous life,
the color of that fruit?
Or did that person too
live in sorrow through this world?
That I do not know, I do not know.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of a Korean poem that struck a chord with me and also has a tinge of han; comfort and love to you, Julia.

    The Rock

    When I die, I wish to be a rock and stand,

    Unstained by any tint of compassion,

    Unmoved by any sorrow or any joy,

    Lashed by the wind and rain,

    Whipped inward, ever inward,

    Muted by a million years of inhumanity,

    Till my life passes ino oblivion,

    Becoming a floating cloud,

    A thunder faraway.

    I wish to be a rock,

    Though dreaming, singing no song;

    Though cleft in two,

    Enduring it in silence.

    -류치환 Lew Chi Whan (1908-1967)

    Translated by Kim Seung Kyu