Poetry spotlight #1: Do not live as I did by Park No Hae

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!

Today we have an amazing poetry spotlight, our first one, and a Korean one at that! This poem is by Park No Hae (박노해), born in 1957. Park No Hae is actually his pen name, and he found inspiration for it through the sentence, ‘the emancipation of workers that are persecuted’ (해 받는 동자의 방). Having been involved himself in many years of manually labour, and having come from a working-class background, he started writing during his years of work, describing the more complex experiences and feelings behind the worker. It was a shock to Korean society that someone with such a background could be a talented and eloquent poet – especially considering the times.

For a bit of background information, Korea had gone through a war in the 1950s, and by the 1980s, the economy was faring a lot better and poverty had lessened; however society had not quite reached stability, and the experience of poverty and war still rang strongly, like a societal trauma. Korea had gone through, at this point (following years of Japanese colonialism and the Korean War), authoritarianism with the Park Chung Hee (박정희) administration, followed by the Chun Doo Hwan (전두환) administration that was involved in the controversial Gwangju Uprising where many students and young workers had been massacred by military forces, under order of the government. There echoed a sense of uncertainty as well as an unshakeable feeling of alienation that had imprinted strongly in Korean society, creating rifts as well as large questions with regards to the nation’s social and political future.

Knowing all of this, I hope you can enjoy the poem below, named Do not live as I did, by Park No Hae. Korean is an extremely concise language, where one can express emotion and feeling through short sentences and words; the English translation unfortunately might not be able to express all of this as well, however I hope you can appreciate the meaning behind the poem nonetheless.

Feel free to share below what you think about the poem, the significance behind it and of course for those Koreans out there, give a shoutout if you are feeling comfortable! Now without further ado, here below the Korean poem, followed by the English translation:

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

넌 나 처럼 살지 마라

술 한잔 걸치신 날이면
넌 나처럼 살지 마라

파스 냄새 물씬한 귀갓길에
넌 나처럼 살지 마라

이 악물고 공부해라
좋은 사무실 취직해라
악착같이 돈 벌어라

악하지도 못한 당신께서
악도 남지 않은 휘청이는 몸으로
넌 나처럼 살지 마라 울먹이는 밤

내 가슴에 슬픔의 칼이 돋아날 때
나도 이렇게는 살고 싶지 않아요
스무살이 되어서도
내가 뭘 하고 싶은지도 모르겠고
꿈을 찾는게 꿈이어서 억울하고

어머니, 당신의 소망은 이미 죽었어요
아버지, 이젠 대학 나와도 내 손으로
당신이 꿈꾸는 밥을 벌 수도 없어요

넌 나처럼 살지 마라, 그래요,
난 절대로 당신처럼 살지는 않을 거에요
자식이 부모조차 존경할 수 없는 세상을
제 새끼에게 나처럼 살지 말라고 말하는 세상을
난 결코 살아남지 않을 거에요

아버지, 당신은 나의 하늘이었어요
당신이 하루 아침에 벼랑 끝에서 떠밀려
어린 내 가슴 바닥에 떨어지던 날
어머니, 내가 딛고 선 발밑도 무너져 버렸어요
그날, 내 가슴엔 영원히 사라지지 않는 공포가
영원히 지워지지 않을 상처가 새겨지고 말았어요

세상은 그 누구도 믿을 수 없고
그 어디에도 기댈 곳도 없고
돈 없으면 죽는구나
그날 이후 삶이 두려워졌어요

넌 나처럼 살지 마라
알아요, 난 죽어도 당신처럼 살지는 않을 거에요
제 자식 앞에 스스로 자신을 죽이고
정직하게 땀 흘려온 삶을 내팽개쳐야 하는
이런 세상을 살지 않을 거에요
나는 차라리 죽어 버리거나 죽여 버리겠어요
돈에 미친 세상을, 돈이면 다인 세상을

아버지, 어머니,
돈이 없어도 당신은 여전히 나의 하늘입니다
당신이 잘못 산게 아니잖아요
못 배웠어도, 힘이 없어도,
당신은 영원히 나의 하늘입니다

어머니, 아버지,
다시 한번 예전처럼 말해주세요
나는 없이 살아도 그렇게 살지 않았다고
나는 대학 안나와도 그런 짓 하지 않았다고
어떤 경우에도 아닌 건 아니다
가슴 펴고 살아가라고

다시 한번 예전처럼 말해주세요
누가 뭐라 해도 너답게 살아가라고
너를 망치는 것들과 당당하게 싸워가라고
너는 엄마처럼 아빠처럼 부끄럽지 않게 살으라고
다시 한번 하늘처럼 말해주세요

Do not live as I did

After a day of drinking
Do not live as I did

After coming home smelling like Pas*
Do not live as I did

Grit your teeth and study
Get employed by a good office
Earn money as if your life depended on it

To you who could never have bad will
With a stumbling body that does not even contain bad will
A night sobbing do not live as I did

When my heart sprouts the knife of sadness
I also do not want to live like this
Even when I turned twenty
I do not know what I would like to do
Feel unfairness as my dream is to find a dream

Mother, your hope has already died
Father, these days even if I do go to university with my hands
I cannot even earn enough for the food you dream of

Do not live as I did, yes,
I will never live as you did
A world where children cannot even respect their parents
A world where one tells their children not to live as I did
I would not survive in that world

Father, you were my sky
The day you were pushed to the edge of a cliff from one day to the next
And fell onto the bottom of my young heart
Mother, what I was treading on has crumbled under my feet
That day, in my heart the fear that never disappears
The hurt that will never be erased was etched

In the world no one can be trusted
Not a single place to lean on anywhere
Without money there is death
After that day life has become terrifying

Do not live as I did
I know, even if I die I will not live as you did
Where one kills their self in front of their children
Where one must throw away the honest life attained through dripping sweat
I will not live this sort of world
I would rather die or be dead
A world crazy with money, where money is everything

Father, Mother,
Even if you do not have money you remain my sky
You did not live wrongly
Even if uneducated, or without strength,
You are still my sky

Mother, Father,
Tell me once again as before
Even if I lived with nothing I did not live like that
Even if I did not go to university I did not do those things
Whatever the case what is not is not
Live with your chest wide open

Tell me once again as before
Whatever others say live the way that you do
Fight steadfastly against those that ruin you
Live unashamedly like your mother like your father
Tell me once again as the sky

*Pas: a cheap pain relieving patch that can be bought at the local pharmacy in Korea. It heats up when it gets in contact with skin and helps to sooth knotted muscles. It is often used by people that do physical labour.

Love, respect and hope,


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