Seoul Literature Publications
Report No. 305-2014-0000036
2013 Seoul Literature Award Winner: Poet Jung Myung Seok
Poet Jung Myung Seok has never given up his life of composition, even in his current most inadequate environment, but has sublimated his misfortunes into happiness by challenging himself endlessly with hope. That is why the board committee of The Most Beautiful People of 2013 from Seoul Education Broadcasting highly appraised his passionate creative writing activities and nominated poet 1178 Jung Myung Seok as The Most Beautiful Person of 2013. His heart for life beats and surges like a wave throughout his compositions and within the merit of his missionary works.
The Selection Committee of The Most Beautiful Person of 2013
How he was nominated: This year poet Jung Myung Seok published two volumes of the series, Poems of Inspiration– The Woman of Poetry and Speaking Through Poetry. Since he has a wide circle of readers, both of his books made records as weekly bestseller at Kyobo Book Centre. Despite being imprisoned currently in Daejeon prison, we found that his fervor for literary creative writing has transcended his confinement; he has been writing almost as many pages as one book every week.
There are many people who have different views towards Jung. However, from a literary point of view, the diction Jung uses in his poems is unique, and at this time when poetry is already being considered a dead literary genre, Jung has engrossed himself in only writing poetry instead of essays or novels and has written thousands of poems thus far. Among those poems, he selected some of his works and published them into two books. In the future, we hope that more budding poets will be born from many other places so that poetry will resurrect again from its current state of depression in Korean literature. With that anticipation, we have nominated poet Jung Myung Seok as The Most Beautiful Person in 2013.
Furthermore, Jung has established a very special theory on psychoanalysis. In contrast to Carl Jung’s theory of dream interpretation, he has proven the reality of dreams empirically. His theory is known as the soul entity theory, which uses psychoanalysis to interpret the way dreams reflect reality. Although dreams reflecting reality is already widespread, his theory of psychoanalysis is revolutionary. In his theory, dreams are the reality of the soul entity; just as we have a physical body in the physical plane, the soul entity of the brain surely exists.
Who is poet Jung Myung Seok?
Who is poet Jung Myung Seok? He was born in 1945, the year of the rooster. At that time, Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. Around the time when Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were making an agreement on the 38th parallel at Yalta on the coast of the Black Sea in the Soviet Union on February 4, 1945, a boy was born in Wolmyeongdong (Dalbar-gol), Seokmak-ri, Jinsan-myeon, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea. At that time, the district was not called Chungcheong Province but Jeolla Province. Poet Jung Myung Seok was the third son of Jung Pal Seong.
What kind of hope was there during the colonial period? Even at birth, Jung faced death. Because of his lack of immunity as a baby, he stopped breathing due to a certain disease. His mother-in-law kept nagging his mother to bury him quickly because it was an ominous sign, but his mother felt sorry for him. When she looked at her baby’s face, thinking that would be the final time she would ever see him, at that moment, he suddenly opened his eyes.
“Since he is still alive, let me have him for one more night…”
During that time, he had become unresponsive. His mother thought he had died after suffering from his high fever, so she laid him down at the corner of the room and covered him with a cloth. His mother was waiting for night to come so that she could try burying him discreetly at the back mountain. She wanted to see her son for the last time, the one whom she had given birth to with labor pains after 10 months, so she peered through the blanket. At that moment, he suddenly opened his eyes again. He wasn’t even crying. Jung spent three days like that. This miracle happened as his swelling subsided. That’s why his mom named him Myung* Seok because he seemed to have many lives. This is the childhood story of poet Jung Myung Seok.
(Translator’s note: Myung(命) is a Chinese character and means a life. However, later he changed his name to Myung(明), which means bright.)
Could the reason all his poetry is directly connected to life perhaps be because of what had happened in his childhood? Since he had experienced death at such a young age, during his adolescence, he often pondered deeply in solitude about life. Later on, while serving in the Vietnam War, he realized the value of life, the futility of life, and the fundamental world of God through first-hand experiences. He was able to live because of his mother’s love, which had compelled her to peer through the blanket to see her son’s face one last time, and so his affinity towards lives also stems from love.
The reason Jung’s poems are so good lies within their earnestness. His unquenchable earnestness towards what he is yearning for is carved deep into his poems like markings. When you see a flower, you can know about it by its fragrance. In the same way, all his poems give off a certain fragrance. Vol. 3 of his Poems of Inspiration titled, The Woman of Poetry, contained truly beautiful pieces. In order to understand the poet Jung Myung Seok, just as a work of art tells something about its author, reading his poetry yourself is the fastest and the most genuine way to get to know him.
Within Korean literary circles, there is a history book of literature known as The Encyclopedia of Korean Poetry. Poet Jung is officially registered in the 2011 edition of The Encyclopedia of Korean Poetry. On page 2717, readers can learn about him in a more detailed and genuine way. The fact that he is on page 2717 goes to show that The Encyclopedia of Korean Poetry is a very thick history book of literature. It presents 100 years of Korean poetry history.
The Encyclopedia of Korean Poetry was published by EJP Books, and Jung is in the 2011 edition. This book includes poems written by 3,500 poets who represent the history of Korean poetry from 1908 to 2010. The encyclopedia showcases ten of Jung’s poems; some of which include The Terrain of the Heart, Life, Good and Evil, Our Love, Operation, A Never-changing Heart, and Hope.
When you read his poem called Happiness is on Its Way, you can see how he depicts a deep aspect of life with simple yet meaningful diction.
Happiness is on Its Way (Full-version)
In life’s winter, where blizzards blow, there Happiness goes,
Even in a bone-aching life of anguish and suffering,
Happiness still goes on that thorny road.
Not permitting itself to just anyone,
It heads toward the path of pain, of man’s struggle.
Hope, also, not wishing to live with just anyone;
Seeking the one who endures, it goes.
Happiness and hope are surely abstract nouns. We cannot touch them and they don’t have specific forms. However, poet Jung describes happiness and hope as entities that exist and that are living. Happiness and hope are not abstract to Jung. He personifies them as entities that have a specific form. We wonder, how earnestly did he want happiness and hope to the point that he would portray their looks with such diction? When we look at his style of speech, the way he connects the verb, seeking, to the abstract nouns, we catch a glimpse of his bold transcendence of the existing grammatical rules in poetry. Of course, modern poetry is also highly influenced by free verse, so it is not bound by grammatic structure either.
Once again, we’d like to ask, who is poet Jung Myung Seok? Hearing from Jung directly about who he is would be the most genuine approach. However, written words are an expression of one’s heart. An art piece reflects the thoughts of its author, and an author speaks through his work. Likewise, Jung speaks directly through his work, one being The Woman of Poetry. What more words are needed? Who knows? During the times of our deepest despair, perhaps you will also be able to draw hope like finding an oasis in a desert through the words of his poetry.
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