00s- / Poems in Korean Middle School Textbooks / Poetry Translation / S-Z

Auntie – Yoon Jungsoon


Yoon Jungsoon (1957-present)

I really like my auntie because she looks like my mom.
Her plump fingers and voice are alike too.
When she gets down and looks into my eyes,
She looks exactly like my mom.
And when she suddenly grins,
She’s prettier than my mom.
Auntie doesn’t send me on an errand
Nor does she scold me.
She’s thrilled whenever she sees me.
When I’m on the bus to my auntie’s house,
I want to see my auntie so quick.
When I call her “Auntie”
Auntie also calls my name
And bounces into me.
How have you been so far?
What do you want to eat?
When she asks me this and that,
Like she’s looking into my mind,
I feel better spontaneously.
Auntie is my mom’s younger sister,
But auntie’s like her older sister.

(Translated by Jido Ahn. January 2016)




윤정순 (1957~)

이모는 엄마를 닮아서 참 좋다.
통통한 손가락이랑 목소리도 닮았다.
키를 낮추며 내 눈을 빤히 볼 때는
엄마와 정말 똑같다.
그러다 화들작 웃을 때는
엄마보다 더 예쁘다.
이모는 심부름도 안 시키고
꾸짖지도 않는다.
나만 보면 좋아라 한다.
버스를 타고 이모 집에 갈 때는
이모가 빨리 보고 싶다.
이모야, 하고 부르면
급하게 뛰어나오며
이모도 내 이름을 부른다.
그 동안 잘 있었냐
무엇 먹고 싶으냐
내 마음을 들여다보듯
이것저것 물을 때는
기분이 저절로 좋아진다.
이모는 엄마 동생이지만
이모가 언니 같다.


This poem appears in the 7th grade Korean textbook.

A narrator in the poem is a little child, hence the language of the poem is very simple. So, I tried to keep the language as simple as possible in the translation too.

There’s not much information about Yoon Jungsoon. But from what I found, this poem was selected in Busan Ilbo Shinchunmunye, which means this was her debut poem. I’m pretty impressed that a debut poem could make it to a national textbook. She published a book of children’s poetry in 2011.

I’ll need to explain a little bit about Shinchunmunye. 신춘문예 (新春文藝, Shin-Chun-Mun-Ye) literally means “literary arts of the new spring”. Although now there are writers who debut through literary journals or prizes given by major literary publishers, Shinchunmunye is still a major platform to debut as a writer in Korea. Hosted by national and local newspaper companies at the end of each year, winners are announced on the New Year’s day. Mostly, newspaper companies choose one winner for each genre, and simultaneous submission is not allowed.

People who are interested in the contemporary Korean literature all pay close attention to Shinchunmunye, so winning Shinchunmunye has been a big deal for creative writing students. Also, “self-publishing” is very uncommon in Korea (which I don’t necessarily think is negative or positive). That being said, to have an access to a publication market, you need to have some credentials, and you can only establish credentials through winning Shinchunmunye or being in a major literary journal. However, winners of Shinchunmunye from a less-recognized newspaper (newspaper that are not circulated on a national, provincial, or gwangyeoksi (main metropolitan) level) have hard time finding a market, and they often shoot for winning Shinchunmunye again from a well-recognized newspaper.

All of the poets who are translated here, including contemporary poets, won Shinchunmunye at the very beginning of their literary career. Debuting through a major literary journal is a very, very recent trend, so you can assume most Korean writers you’ll ever hear went through Shinchunmunye for now, unless you really dig into Korean literature and catch up with all the new writers.

If you can read Korean, check out Dong-a Ilbo’s (one of the three major newspaper companies in Korea) Shinchunmunye winner’s page. They have posted winners’  writings for the last 18 years, including the winners of 2016. Dong-a Ilbo awards a prize in nine different areas: novelette, short story, poetry, shijo (traditional fixed verse), play, scenario, children’s story, literary critic, and movie critic.

Photo Source: Webzine Doyo

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