Freedom by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Kim Jae-gon

Freedom by Kim Nam-ju

I am free when I work for all the people.
I can’t sing that I am free
unless I work with everyone sweating.

I am free when I fight for all the people.
I can’t sing that I am free
unless I fight with others bleeding.

I am free when I struggle for all the people.
I can’t sing that I am free
unless I share the blood, sweat, and tears.

Everyday people shout
freedom, democracy, and the people
while inside they work for their own self-interests.
What in the world can we do?

What can one become
when one deceives oneself?

자유/ 김남주

만인을 위해 내가 일할 때 나는 자유
땀 흘려 함께 일하지 않고서야
어찌 나는 자유다라고 노래할 수 있으랴

만인을 위해 내가 싸울 때 나는 자유
피흘려 함께 싸우지 않고서야
어찌 나는 자유다라고 노래할 수 있으랴

만인을 위해 내가 몸부림칠 때 나는 자유
피와 땀과 눈물을 나누어 흘리지 않고서야
어찌 나는 자유다라고 노래할 수 있으랴

사람들은 맨날
겉으로는 자유여 민주주의여 동포여 외쳐대면서도
속으로는 제 잇속만 차리고들 있으니
도대체 무엇을 할 수 있단 말인가

제 자신을 속이고서
도대체 무엇이 될 수 있단 말인가
제 자신을 속이고서

Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Chonnam National University. He is known as one of the major resistance poets in South Korea, leading the people’s movement in the 1970s and 80s that ultimately toppled the dictatorship in Korea. Because of his activism, he was imprisoned twice, for more than ten years in total. In prison where paper and pencil were not allowed, he wrote many poems on milk cartons with the nail he made by grinding a toothbrush. These poems were later published in two collected volumes of his prison poetry, The Sunlight on the Prison Bar. His poetry bears witness to the tyranny of dictatorship and the hardships of the oppressed. He published such poetry collections as Requiem, My Sword My Blood, One Fatherland, The Weapon of Love and In This Lovely World. He received the Yun Sang-won Literary Award in 1993 and the National Literary Award in 1994. His poems have also been memorialized by Korean activist, rock singer An Chi-hwan in his album entitled Remember.

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