Massacre, Part II by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Melanie Steyn

Photo provided by the 5.18 Memorial Foundation

Massacre, Part II by Kim Nam-ju

It was a day in May.
It was a day in May, 1980.
It was a night in May, 1980, in Gwangju.

At midnight I saw
the police replaced by combat police.
At midnight I saw
the combat police replaced by the army.
At midnight I saw
American civilians leaving the city.
At midnight I saw
all the vehicles blocked, trying to enter the city.

Oh, what a dismal midnight it was!
Oh, what a deliberate midnight it was!

It was a day in May.
It was a day in May, 1980.
It was a day in May, 1980, in Gwangju.
At noon I saw
a troop of soldiers armed with bayonets.
At noon I saw
a troop of soldiers like an invasion by a foreign nation.
At noon I saw
a troop of soldiers like a plunderer of people.
At noon I saw
a troop of soldiers like an incarnation of the devil.

Oh, what a terrible noon it was!
Oh, what a malicious noon it was!

It was a day in May.
It was a day in May, 1980.
It was a night in May, 1980, in Gwangju.

At midnight
the city was a heart poked like a beehive.
At midnight
the street was a blood river running like lava.

At 1 o’clock
the wind stirred the blood-stained hair of a young, murdered woman.
At midnight
the night gorged itself on a child’s eyes, popped out like bullets.
At midnight
the slaughterers kept moving along the mountain of corpses.

Oh, what a horrible midnight it was!
Oh, what a calculated midnight of slaughtering it was!

It was a day in May.
It was a day in May, 1980.

At noon
the sky was a cloth of crimson blood.
At noon
on the streets every other house was crying.
Mudeung Mountain curled up her dress and hid her face.
At noon
the Youngsan River held her breath, and died.

Oh, not even the Guernica massacre was as ghastly as this one!
Oh, not even the devil’s plot was as calculated as this one!

학살2/ 김남주

오월 어느 날이었다
80년 오월 어느 날이었다
광주 80년 오월 어느 날 밤이었다

밤 12시 나는 보았다
경찰이 전투경찰로 교체되는 것을
밤 12시 나는 보았다
전투경찰이 군인으로 대체되는 것을
밤 12시 나는 보았다
미국 민간인들이 도시를 빠져나가는 것을
밤 12시 나는 보았다
도시로 들어오는 모든 차량들이 차단되는 것을

아 얼마나 음산한 밤 12시였던가
아 얼마나 계획적인 밤 12시였던가

오월 어느 날이었다
1980년 오월 어느 날이었다
광주 1980년 오월 어느 날 낮이었다
낮 12시 나는 보았다
총검으로 무장한 일단의 군인들을
낮 12시 나는 보았다
이민족의 침략과도 같은 일단의 군인들을
낮 12시 나는 보았다
민족의 약탈과도 같은 일군의 군인들을
낮 12시 나는 보았다
악마의 화신과도 같은 일단의 군인들을

아 얼마나 무서운 낮 12시였던가
아 얼마나 노골적인 낮 12시였던가

오월 어느 날이었다
1980년 오월 어느 날이었다
광주 1980년 오월 어느 날 밤이었다

밤 12시
도시는 벌집처럼 쑤셔놓은 심장이었다
밤 12시
거리는 용암처럼 흐르는 피의 강이었다
밤 1시
바람은 살해된 처녀의 피묻은 머리카락을 날리고
밤 12시
밤은 총알처럼 튀어나온 아이의 눈동자를 파먹고
밤 12시
학살자들은 끊임없이 어디론가 시체의 산을 옮기고 있었다

아 얼마나 끔찍한 밤 12시였던가
아 얼마나 조직적인 학살의 밤 12시였던가

오월 어느 날이었다
1980년 오월 어느 날 낮이었다

낮 12시
하늘은 핏빛의 붉은 천이었다
낮 12시
거리는 한 집 건너 울지 않는 집이 없었다
무등산은 그 옷자락을 말아올려 얼굴을 가려 버렸다
낮 12시
영산강은 그 호흡을 멈추고 숨을 거둬 버렸다

아 게르니카의 학살도 이리 처참하지는 않았으리
아 악마의 음모도 이리 치밀하지는 않았으리

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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