60s-70s / K-L / Poetry Translation

Christmas – Kim Jong-gil

I spent Christmas morning translating Kim’s poem. This poem is very well-known in Korea, and it often appears in the Korean textbooks. This is also one of my favorite poems.

If you’re using my translation, you don’t need to get my permission, but please make sure to clarify who the translator was. Also, as I’m not a trained translator, this translation may not be the best translation you could find on internet.

Anyways, enjoy the poem and happy Holidays y’all!


Kim Jong-gil (1926-)

Charcoal is burning red
in the dark room;

My lonesomely aged grandma
was guarding this little life from piteously dying down.

By and by, my father came back with a remedy
through the snow.

Oh, the red Cornus berries
my father plucked across the snow.

I’m a little cub;
Against the chill clothes of my young father,
I silently rubbed my cheeks flushed with fever.

Now and then, a blizzard hit the back door.
That night perhaps was the night of Christmas.

I, too, already am
as old as my father back then.

Christmas is coming, and
the pleasant old thing is now falling
in the city where there is no trace of the past.

To suddenly feel my father’s chill clothes across my forehead
at this sorrowful age, thirty years old—

Perhaps, to this day, the red Cornus berries he picked across the snow
are melt and flowing in my vein, one by one.

(Translated by Jido Ahn. December 2014)

36_나도안동사람_김종길 시인2

learn more about the poet: Kim Jong-gil (1926-) 


Poem in the original language:


김종길 (1926-)

어두운 방 안엔
바알간 숯불이 피고,

외로이 늙으신 할머니가
애처로이 잦아드는 어린 목숨을 지키고 계시었다.

이윽고 눈 속을
아버지가 약을 가지고 돌아오시었다.

아, 아버지가 눈을 헤치고 따 오신
그 붉은 산수유 열매.

나는 한 마리 어린 짐승,
젊은 아버지의 서느런 옷자락에
열로 상기한 볼을 말없이 부비는 것이었다.

이따금 뒷문을 눈이 치고 있었다.
그 날 밤이 어쩌면 성탄제의 밤이었을지도 모른다.

어느새 나도
그때의 아버지만큼 나이를 먹었다.

옛것이라곤 찾아볼 길 없는
성탄제 가까운 도시에는
이제 반가운 그 옛날의 것이 내리는데,

서러운 서른 살, 나의 이마에
불현듯 아버지의 서느런 옷자락을 느끼는 것은,

눈 속에 따 오신 산수유 붉은 알알이
아직도 내 혈액 속에 녹아 흐르는 까닭일까.


This poem appears in the third grade of middle school Korean textbook (9th grade)


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