Go to contents

Poet, history and politics

Posted June. 10, 2017 07:30,   

Updated June. 10, 2017 07:34


In his book "Looking for Poets," poet Shin Gyeong-lim describes Do Jong-hwan who became famous with his poem “You Are Rose Mallow” as “poet who has not earned recognition for literary value he deserves due to his excessive popularity among the public.” Poet Do has poem entitled “Ivy” that is as humble as "Briquette Ashes" by poet Ahn Do-hyun, yet very touching. The poem reads "That’s wall / when we feel that is undoubtedly a wall / then / ivy climbs up the wall in silence / when there is no single drop of water and no single seed can survive / when we call it a 'wall of despair’ / ivy moves forward without hurrying."

Do Jong-hwan, a lawmaker with the ruling Minjoo Party, is under criticism for his unorthodox view of history since being nominated as Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister. Once a project to create a history map of Northeast Asia that cost 5 billion won (4.4 million U.S. dollars), and a project on ancient Korean history at Harvard University that was in progress for almost 10 years went up in smoke since they were wrongfully construed as reflecting the view of colonial history in 2015. As lawmaker, Do would brag about these as if his achievements when serving as a member of the special committee on countermeasure for distortion of history in Northeast Asia at the National Assembly. He claimed that it was ill-advised to mark Naknaggun on Pyongyang in the historical map of Northeast Asia and a project introducing ancient history to foreign countries that way should be stopped.

Poem has the spirit of poem, and prose has the spirit of prose. Who on earth will criticize him for dreaming about ancient history based on free spirit of poem? However, if he intervenes in the stringent realm of prose or assay with such spirit, problems occur. The theory of the Naklang district being located in Pyongyang has been widely established as orthodox theory. More than 2,600 tombs of Naklang district have been found in Pyongyang by historians from South and North Korea since Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule (in 1945). Only quasi-scholars still would not accept it as orthodox.

President Moon Jae-in suggested the need to study the history of the ancient Gaya Kingdom (in southern regions) out of blue recently, and sought to accord political meaning to the initiative: reconciliation and unity between Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces. Then, Do concurred, saying, “Japan has claimed that ‘Imna’ in the ‘Imna Ilbonbu (Japan head office) theory as ‘Gaya’ and there are many research papers written by Korean historians suggesting Imna as ‘Gaya.’” Even if we don’t’ admit that the Imna Ilbonbu theory, the fact that Imna was another name for Gaya will not change. Japan might have distorted the theory of "lmna Ilbonbu" because Imna is Gaya. It is not certain whether lawmaker Do will actually become the culture minister after his confirmation hearing, but he should never transform his ill-advised understanding and recognition of history into poems of confusion.