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This review is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

DEATHS OF THE POETS DAVID R. McCANN (ed.), The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry (Columbia University Press) $22.50/£15.00

This anthology doesn't so much tell a story as summarise many dreadful ones. The introduction is most instructive, and the headnotes to individual poets' selections are frequently heart-breaking. Yun Tongju, born in northeastern China, studied in Seoul and at Doshisha University, Kyoto. He was arrested in 1943 and died in Fukuoka Prison 'possibly a victim of medical experimentation' on 16 February 1945: 'Life is meant to be difficult' he writes, 'it is too bad / that a poem comes so easily to me.' Yi Shanghwa, born in 1901, was a member of a Socialist Writers' Association and died in 1943: 'these fields have been stolen, and the spring itself may be stolen too'. No cause of death is given. Yi Yuksa died in a Japanese prison in Beijing in 1944: 'Beneath the blue sky the green sea unlocks its heart, / And a boat comes gliding, its white sail spread.' Im Hwa was an early leader of the Korean Artists' Proletarian Federation. He 'went North' in 1947 'but was arrested in 1953, charged, convicted, and sentenced to death on the improbable charge of being an American spy.' 'Again at the Crossroads', dated July 1935, has words missing censored by Japanese colonial officials: 'how to care for others, fight, and _____ the dark _____ that covers you like _____, have you greeted and sent away?'

No Ch'onyong (1912-57) supported the Japanese war effort and was later branded a 'collaborationist writer'. She was arrested and tried after the Korean ...


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