The BBC has produced a 25 minute audio-documentary on Korean Poet Ko Un called Ko Un: The People’s Poet of Korea. The documentary includes a plummy-voiced BBC announcer, lightly plucked gayageum, both Korean and English versions of Ko’s poetry, and commentary from a variety of sources who kind of sum Ko up as “embodying” South Korea. The documentary focuses on “Maninbo” (Ten Thousand Lives), which is Ko’s encyclopedic attempt to describe modern Korean history.
It’s a pretty amazing interview, covering all the aspects of Ko’s life including the war, his pouring acid in his own ears, his suicide attempt, his drunkeness, his spiritual awakening, and his pro-democracy activities. It’s worth checking out for fans of Ko Un and fans of international poetry.
About the documentary, the BBC says:
In South Korea, former Zen monk Ko Un is revered as a pro-democracy activist and the people’s poet. To mark his 80th birthday, Mike Greenwood explores his prolific output, in particular his epic masterwork, Ten Thousand Lives (Maninbo), in which he puts into poems the faces and lives of all the people he has known or known of. Conceived when he was imprisoned in the 1980s for rebelling against the military dictatorships then controlling South Korea, Maninbo has been published in 30 volumes in Korean. Now, for the first time, the first 10 volumes have been translated into English. We use readings from this treasure box of poems to provide a unique window on to modern Korea, with contributions from Andrew Motion and Ko Un himself, three-times Nobel Prize for Literature runner up. “Poetry” he says, “is the music of history.” Ko Un has given us special access to his home near Seoul where, in a series of intimate interviews, he shares his story.