Kim Ji-ha (Korean: 김지하), born February 4, 1941 in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province and died May 8, 2022 in Wonju, Gangwon Province, was a South Korean poet and playwright.
Kim Ji-ha was born on February 4, 1941, in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, as Kim Yŏng-il (Korean: 김영일; RR: Gim Yeong-il). He graduated from Seoul National University in aesthetics. In March 1963, under the name Kim Ji-ha, he published the poem Jeonyeok iyagi (“Night Garden”) in the literary journal Mokpo munhak. He officially made his literary debut in 1969.
He was an opponent of the military regime of Park Chung-hee in South Korea. He chose the first name Ji-ha because it means "underground" in Korean. After accusing the regime of obtaining false testimony under torture, he was sentenced to death, a sentence that was changed to life imprisonment, before finally being pardoned under popular pressure. In 1974, he reiterated his accusations of torture vis-à-vis the government, particularly in the incidents of the People's Revolutionary Party (ko): he was then imprisoned and sentenced to life imprisonment. As a Catholic, he regularly compares the suffering of the Korean people to that of Jesus Christ.
From his first collection of poems, Hwangto (“The Yellow Earth”), to his collection of lyric poems Byeolbateul Ureoreumyeo (“Looking up there, the field of stars”), Kim Ji-ha has published a wide range of stories ranging from pure narration to lyric poetry, including ballads, drama or prose. His work also covers both religious and philosophical themes.
The majority of his poems are satirical, presenting criticisms of society. In The Yellow Earth (Hwangto) and With Burning Thirst (Taneun mokmareumeuro), he offers a critique of the world around him through lyrical poetry. In ballads like Five Bandits (Ojeok) or Unfounded Rumors, he uses the rhythm of the pansori (a long lyric poem sung in the traditional way) with sometimes obscure Chinese characters to point the finger at the misdeeds and corruption of men in power. The rhythm of pansori is also present in A cumulus in these days of drought (I gamun nare bigureum), a collection of narrative poems that highlight the life and death of Choi Je-u. Unlike his first poems, his collection Ærine (Aerin) focuses more on the theme of romantic love, a work that will mark a turning point in his career. His works Looking Up, the Field of Stars (Byeolbateul Ureoreumyeo) and The Torment of the Center (Jungsimui goero-um) reveal his desire to paint the inner monologues of individuals with the utmost lyricism. These later works also reveal the author's attachment to romanticism, focusing on the love of nature, rather than conveying a critique of society as in his earlier works.
During the 1980s, his poetry experienced another turning point: while most artists focused on writing committed to the military government, he developed a more refreshing and light poetry on the daily life of his fellow men.
In his play Jesus crowned with gold (Geumgwanui yesu), a leper, the lowest class in Korea, goes to meet Jesus in prison; Jesus then tells him to help him free himself. By helping disadvantaged people, Jesus achieves liberation.
Notes and References
(en) This article is partly or entirely taken from the Wikipedia article in English entitled "Kim Chi-ha" (see the list of authors).
Music resource: MusicBrainz