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One Day

Snapshots from a South Korean dissident poet

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from labor poet Park Nohae’s photo-essay collection One Day, which documents his travels and encounters through Burma/Myanmar, Pakistan, India, and elsewhere. Park was a factory worker and anonymous dissident poet, who helped establish the South Korean Socialist Workers’ Alliance in the 1980s. For this, he was tortured, sentenced to life imprisonment by the military dictatorship in 1991, and amnestied after seven years by President Kim Daejung. In his introduction essay, translator Brother Anthony explains the origins of the book’s title, “To survive, [Park] clung to the phrase: ‘Just one day more! One day more! I’ve survived this far, surely today’s my end, the last day of my life. So just this one more day!’ Today, his organization Nanum Munhwa “Culture of Sharing” focuses on global issues. He continues to exhibit photographs in Seoul’s Ra Cafe Gallery. His photography and poetry center on themes of resistance, revolution, spirituality, education, and love. This piece appeared in the folio Monsoon Notebook.

—Esther Kim


Click the thumbnail to see the gallery. Poetic captions in English and Korean below.

As the sun is setting, it is a daily ritual for a girl to give water to a young tree planted in the parched ground. “The day I was born my father planted an oak, saying, When you are 20 years old, we can sit in its shade and read a book…”


Park Nohae

1. Fishing in Inle Lake

Inle Lake, known as ‘the heart of Burma,’ is a ‘sea in the mountains,’ located in the highlands. When the sun shines through the blue mist, the Inle fishermen gently row with a single foot. “I have to keep the rhythm. I have to keep the unique rhythm.” When it’s time to draw up the nets and harvest the silvery fish, youth’s work becomes a stately dance.

Lake Inle, Nyaung Shwe, Burma, 2011.

인레 호수의 고기잡이

‘버마의 심장’이라 불리는 인레 호수는

고원 지대에 자리한 ‘산 위의 바다’이다.

희푸름한 물안개 속에 햇살이 빛나면

인레 어부들은 가만가만 외발로 노를 저어간다.

“리듬에 맞춰야 해요. 고유한 리듬에 맞춰야 해요.”

그물을 당겨 은빛 물고기를 거두어 받는 시간,

청년의 노동은 우아한 춤이 된다.


Park Nohae

2. A Dignified Return

Betakkun is a fishing village pounded by the blue waves of the Indian Ocean. Fishermen who set off for far away with the red sunset, bring home their catch after fighting with the waves all night long. Poor folk who have no boat help out then receive some fish in return, sharing with all the joy of a full load of fish. After selling the heavy fish borne on his shoulders, a fisherman is delighted to think he can buy his youngest child a school uniform. The fatigue from laboring in the waves is so sweet.

Puri, Orissa, India, 2013.

당당한 귀항

인도양 푸른 파도가 철썩이는 베따꾼 어촌.

붉은 석양을 받으며 먼바다로 떠난 어부들이

밤새 파도와 싸우며 잡은 물고기를 싣고 귀항한다.

배가 없는 가난한 이들은 일을 거든 후 일용할 물고기를

조금씩 나눠 받으며 만선의 기쁨을 함께한다.

어깨에 짊어진 묵직한 물고기를 팔아서

막내 아이 교복을 사 입힐 생각에 흐뭇한 어부는

파도 속 격한 노동의 피로가 달콤하기만 하다.


Park Nohae

3. Splashing about with Water Buffalo

Children follow their grandfather to the river to wash the water buffalo that’s weary from working in the heat of the day. They jump into the river with the water buffalo and splash about. The water buffalo, that grew up with the children since it was small, lows happily at the children’s playfulness and the cool river. The water buffalo is also a strong guard, ready to rescue any children who are swept away by the fierce current.

In Dein, Nyaung Shwe, Burma, 2011.

물소와 함께 물장구

한낮의 더운 노동에 지친 물소를 씻겨주려

강으로 할아버지를 따라나선 아이들.

물소와 함께 강물에 뛰어들어 물장구를 친다.

새끼 때부터 함께 자란 물소는 시원한 강물과

아이들의 장난에 기분 좋은 울음소리를 낸다.

행여 거센 물살에 휩쓸리는 아이들을 구해내는

든든한 지킴이도 물소이다.


Park Nohae

4. A Girl Growing Trees

In a remote Fakheer village where desolate landscapes unfold, when desertification dried the rivers, dried the earth and the trees died, the villagers gradually moved away to become urban laborers. In order to save the village, poor people decided to take a common reed, weave baskets, sell them, and plant trees. As the sun is setting, it is a daily ritual for a girl to give water to a young tree planted in the parched ground. “The day I was born my father planted an oak, saying: When you are 20 years old, we can sit in its shade and read a book. After 100 years, it will become a beautiful tree. After 300 years, it will be a green forest. So I have to cultivate it well for the future generations.” Precious things ever require much time and effort. Our life is to plant green trees, breathing long.

Dohak Baba Fakheer village, Punjab, Pakistan, 2011.

나무를 키우는 소녀

황량한 풍경이 끝없이 펼쳐지는 파키르 오지 마을.

사막화로 강물이 마르고 땅이 마르고 나무가 죽어가자

하나둘 마을 사람들도 도시 노동자로 떠나갔다.

마을을 살리기 위해 가난한 주민들은

흔하게 널린 갈대를 엮어 만든

바구니를 팔아 나무를 심어 가기로 했다.

해가 기울 녘, 불볕의 땅에 심겨진 어린나무에

물을 길어다 주는 건 소녀의 하루 의례다.

“내가 태어나던 날 아빠는 오크 나무를 심었어요.

스무 살이 되면 나무그늘에 앉아 책을 읽자고.

100년이 지나면 아름드리 나무가 되고

300년이 흐르면 푸른 숲을 이룰 거라고.

그러니 대를 이어 가꿔가도록 잘 일러야 한다구요.”

소중한 것들은 그만큼의 시간과 공력을 필요로 하는 법.

우리 삶은 긴 호흡으로 푸른 나무를 심어가는 것.


Park Nohae

5. Diving into a Flowing River

Burma’s sun makes people hot. But you should not try to fight the sun. For cool rivers await you everywhere. Burma’s forests’ ‘river bathhouse’ is free. Just dive into a flowing river and all the day’s worries and fatigue are washed away, as round ripples spread like smiles.

In Dein, Nyaung Shwe, Burma, 2011.

흐르는 강물에 몸을 담고

버마의 태양은 사람을 달군다.

하지만 태양과 싸우지 말 일이다.

어디나 시원한 강물이 기다리고 있으니.

버마의 숲속 ‘강물 목욕탕’은 공짜다.

흐르는 강물에 몸을 담그기만 해도

하루의 근심과 피로가 씻겨 나가고

동그란 파문이 미소처럼 퍼져나간다.


Park Nohae

6. Washing Clothes in the Irrawaddy River

Originating from the Himalayas and running through Burma, the Irrawaddy River is the largest river in Burma. People build tiny huts near the river and live by their daily labor. “When I wash my clothes in the river, everything becomes clear. At present I have no land, no house, but I have a healthy body that can still work tomorrow, while the children are well-behaved and growing up strongly, so I keep looking ahead as I live.”

River Irrawaddy, Mandalay, Burma, 2011.


이라와디강가의 빨래

히말라야에서 발원해 버마를 종단하는

이라와디강은 버마 최대의 강이다.

강가 근처에 한 평짜리 움막을 짓고

일용직 노동으로 살아가는 사람들.

“강물에 빨래를 하다 보면 다 맑아져요.

지금은 땅도 없고 집도 없지만

내일도 일할 수 있는 성한 몸이 있고

아이들은 착하고 강하게 크고 있으니

앞을 바라보고 사는 거지요.”


Read more about Park Nohae in Asymptote.

Read more about Park Nohae in translator Brother Anthony’s website.

Photo and Writing © Park Nohae, Translation © Brother Anthony, Published by Slow Walking.