• Book
  • English(English)

백석 전집

  • Author
  • Country
    Republic of Korea
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
  • Genre
    Literature - Korean literature - Collected Works of Writers



    Title: The Collected Works of Baek Seok

    Author: Baek Seok

    Genre: Poetry


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7741)


  • About the book


    Together with Jeong JiYong, two poets stand at the pinnacle of Korean lyricists, Baek Seok [백석(白石) 1912-1996)], who has recently had 19 new works unearthed, is the other. The literary critic, Kim JaeYong published the first edition of The Collected Works of Baek Seok in 1997. In 2003, 34 additional poems were discovered and included in an expanded edition, and as 19 additional poems were uncovered over the last eight years, they have been included in a newer revised edition. “In an effort to uncover the true character of Baek Seok’s poetry, I was forced to collect materials from China and Russia for his works published in North Korea in the period following liberation.” (Kim, JaeYong). As he was able to provide the entire picture, the publishing of the first edition of The Collected Works of Baek Seok in 1997 came into the spotlight, even though no one could determine his current condition. As a result of the continued interest and through additional research, the eight years following the 2003 edition have born much fruit.


    The revised edition of The Collected Works of Baek Seok includes the works from before liberation as well as previously unknown works from after liberation. In particular, his forays into fairy tales provide for us a deeper insight into his activities and literary achievements in North Korea.


    The revised edition of The Collected Works of Baek Seok include newly discovered poems: Hair and Donkey, which are infused with a strong sense of folklore and popular customs; fairy tales, such as The Magpie and an Azure-winged Magpie, and Four Pincers-clawed Brothers (which he updated to The Claws of Four Brothers); children’s poems, which embody his technique, such as Wild Boar, Riverside, Giraffe, and Mountain Goat; and heavy-handed ideological poems of the North, such as The Cry of Ducks, The Words of Coal, and five others for a total of fifteen works. Additionally, Baek Seok’s translations of Gor’kii, Marshak and Aesop, along with his letters to the novelist, Choi, JeongHui were discovered, which provide more profound insight into the entirety of his literary works.


    One of the outstanding features of Baek Seok work is its folk character. His poetry recounts the customs and manners of the common people from the pre-modern era. In this way, Baek Seok’s poetry is able to express an earnest devotion to Korean folk style in the voice of the modern people. This method allows us to gain more and more insight into the connection of people to their ethnic customs and cultural heritage, as with Family of Fox Valley or Ancient Night, and other poems that convey a sense of communal unity to the reader. Additionally, the most remarkable characteristic is his use of dialect. Throughout the scope of modern Korean poetry, it is difficult to find poems with such dialectic consciousness. 


    His poetry systematically reflects the dialect of the Kwanso Region. Though his use of dialect as a type of resistance to the standardized language of the period, the reader can get a basic understanding of Baek Seok’s strong opposition to the modern centralization of power and burgeoning materialism in the daily lives of real people.


    About the author


    Following liberation, the complexity of the situation on the peninsula put Baek Seok in a delicate situation as he was very critical about the split of North and South. The so-called liberation had instilled in him a deep sense of the importance of community and compelled him to propose the alternative of a unified Korea, but at that moment, his path had diverged from the current of the present milieu, so he was forced to resort to translation.


    The end of the war prompted Baek Seok’s return to literary activities with forays into children’s poetry and fairy tales. April of 1957 saw the release of his fairy tale collection, The Claws of Four Brothers, for which he borrowed heavily from poetic structures rather than prose. Additionally, he avoided advancing the ideas of revolution and class-consciousness, in order to inspire humanism in the work. As a result, his children’s literature began instigating arguments and he published Toward the Development of Fair Tales in Literature and My protests and Proposals in Chosen Literary Magazine to criticize the “Socialist Roadmap” of North Korea’s Children’s literature.


    In the postwar thawing of relations between North and South, Baek Seok continued to assert his literary views and in the 1958 purge, was banished to a government-managed farming collective, even as his literature was thrown into the spotlight. In a farming village with no electricity, he confirmed the viability of communal life and composed poems of imagery. In 1959, he released Eastern Restaurant, which was reminiscent of Family of Fox Valley and his other early work:


    Children happy as a holiday

    in the yard playing tag, hide-and-seek

    on the wooden walkways the sound of chatter, the cackle’s clatter

    the adults as if at a fair feeling festive

    the doorway, the main door open and shut successively in and out

    in the doorway, the main room explodes with laughter


    This farm village helped him to regain a sense of communal life and discover a new utopia, but he soon became frustrated with the confines of socialism. By the end of 1962, he suffered a bitter blow from a storm of reactionary critics across North Korea, and so ceased his creative activities. From that time, his name disappeared from the annals of the literary world of North Korea. And though many speculated that Baek Seok passed away in 1995, further research of his family chronology revealed that he died in January of 1996.


    anso Region. Though his use of dialect as a type of resistance to the standardized language of the period, the reader can get a basic understanding of Baek Seok’s strong opposition to the modern centralization of power and burgeoning materialism in the daily lives of real people.


    About the translators


    Peter Nicholas Liptak 情石(정석)

    After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a major in English Literature, Peter Liptak came to Korea in 1995 and has remained for 20 years. Finding in Seoul a source of inspiration, linguistic and otherwise, he began studying Korean at Ewha Woman’s University and later at Seoul National University. He was then given the opportunity to host the show Explore Korea, where he gained a greater appreciation of the country and it’s history. A lack of interesting study materials in the standard courses led him to begin examining Korean poetry as a way of expanding his understanding of the language and people. A poet himself, modern Korean poetry, especially that of the Japanese occupation intrigued him and he began an MA in Korean Studies at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies where he was first introduced to the palatal poems of Baek Seok.


    Mr. Liptak has published more than twenty books as a poet, author and publisher, but continued to return to the simple beauty of Baek Seok’s poetry. “When I resolved to tackle the task of translating Baek Suk’s poetry, I began the journey with the simple impetus of a deep appreciation of his work as well as some mysterious connection I felt to his writing style, a sort of jung (情) had developed that linked me to his work.” After embarking Mr. Liptak began to understand the depth of Baek Seok’s contributions to the development of modern Korean poetry and the Korean condition overall.


    He noted that Baek Seok’s poems helped to preserved the institutions and character of fading local customs, infusing them with foods and flavors native to Korea. Painting a picture of the Korean countryside that is timeless in its application to her rich past of traditions, Baek Seok’s rediscovery of the innate national consciousness through tradition, as an expression of historical consciousness, has allowed his poetry to take on a quality of ethnography.


    But in the final evaluation of this project’s potential significance, with the current situation in North Korea one might easily overlook the long and proud history, culture and traditions of the region. It is the hope of Mr. Liptak that a brief glimpse at the people as they were before the peninsula was torn in an ideological showdown and as they are preserved in Baek Seok’s poetry will bring new light to the eyes of those who would judge the people of Korea.


    Baek Seok gives us a glimpse of the people in their lives and the objects that surrounded them both inimitable and common. These people of the Korean peninsula now divided, but sharing a long history of tradition together hold the heritage that is much overlooked when viewing Asian contributions to world culture. And as such, it is his hope that this publication may transmit a portion of that literary heritage on to the world community.


    An award winning poet and writer of children’s books, Mr. Liptak founded Exile Press and it’s imprints, Little Bear Books and Hungry Dictator Press. He has also authored several language acquisition books for learning English or Korean, including his most popular work: As much as a Rat’s Tail, a book introducing non-native speakers to the inner workings of Korean Slang. Working also for the Korean Government and other organizations in Korea as a copywriter, he hopes to contribute to globalization within Korea and continue to promote Korean culture and literature to the outside world.


    rdized language of the period, the reader can get a basic understanding of Baek Seok’s strong opposition to the modern centralization of power and burgeoning materialism in the daily lives of real people.


    Media Response/Awards Received


      At some moment, to loose a wife and

        the house we made a life in

        and to be far from my frugal parents and siblings

        to wander aimless through the force of wind to the end of a lonesome lane…


        With time’s passage, I realize I lack a wife and also

        Lost is the house of our mutual habitation

        And my prudent parents and also my siblings fell to far off,

        To the end of this some strong winded lonely road, I wander’d about...


    The late literary critic Kim, Hyeon chose BaekSeok’s poem Park Si-bong’s Place as the finest in modern literature (its opening above). Much like his life, this poem wanders endlessly. To him a field of falling snow was his home, every woman he met in the street like a sister. Baek Seok’s use of folk language to express the profound sorrow and resentment of the people, is matched in the work of Seo, JeongJu in the South.


Translated Books (7)