<A Prelude>

In the early days of the Co-vid 19 pandemic, everyone was trying to come to grips with the isolation that the lockdown imposed on almost everyone. Anxiety over the unknown was palpable and permeated the days. The news, whether fake, semi true, or true, was flying thick and fast. In a twinkling, daily life pre-pandemic was reduced to a virtual halt. People took to social media to connect with friends, to share what’s happening in their little worlds and the world at large, to give advice, consolation.

And soon, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with friends, who to “relax”, or to take a breather, were “binge-watching”. And notably on K-dramas. The latest ones, or the ones they liked best and wanted to recommend and even discuss, airing on Netflix or the other streaming platforms like WeTV and Viu, was the talk of the town.

I had never watched telenovellas of any kind before. And although I knew that the K-wave, or the Hallyu wave, was popular especially with the younger generation who were big fans of Korean idols and stars, I never had the time to look into why anything Korean had become such a big hit and a big influence.

To be candid about it, I knew very little about Korean culture. Aside from the problem between North and South, my image was one of Korean pop idol groups, like BTS who commands a super huge following of devoted fans in the Philippines and worldwide, Hyundai cars, Samsung phones, beauty products, spicy food which has become a food craze thanks to the mushrooming of Korean restaurants and groceries, not to mention that a trip to Seoul to visit the places featured in K-dramas became the vacation to save for before the pandemic hit.

I caved in. I finally watched my first K-drama which happened to be a sageuk, a “historical drama”, historical fiction that takes off from Korea’s rich neo-Confucian history”, and, right away, I got to see why K-dramas have become so popular not just here in the East but also in the West.

It’s not just the level of creativity and craftsmanship—in storytelling, cinematography, music and soundtrack, acting (not to mention handsome actors and actresses), and overall production excellence. It’s the wide range of themes and issues, and of genres that the K dramas offered, with a distinct Asian sensitivity, values and perspectives that was a welcome respite to Western fare. With layers of meaning embedded in the stories they told, meanings reinforced with the quotations from books and Korean poems, which often serve as the backbone of the narratives.

Thanks to some of the K-dramas I watched, I encountered Korean poetry for the first time. Perhaps, because I am listening, or rather reading, an English translation, I was struck by the stark simplicity, almost bare of literary pretensions, of a thought laid bare in an understated yet emotionally charged manner, that it touches your heart and mind. Poetic curiosity led me to go further and dip into Korean poetry that could be found, translated into English on the internet, opening up a new vein of poetry I had not had encountered before.

Here are some of the poems by Korean poets that particularly resonated and made me reflect on themes that were emotionally relevant to me during these times and this time of my life.

<The Poems>

#1. Once Again

A person full of hope

is already hope.

A person seeking the way

is already a new way.

A truly good person

is already a good world.

It’s within that person.

It starts with that person.

Once again:

only a person is hope.

by Park No-hae



You have to look closely

to see that it is pretty

You have to look for a long time

to see that it is lovely

You are the same.

by Na Tae-joo


#3.The Visitor

The coming of a person

is, in fact, a tremendous feat.

Because he

comes with his past and present


with his future.

Because a person’s whole life comes with him.

Brings with him his heart

vulnerable as can be

Since it is so easily broken

the heart that comes along

would have been broken ― a heart

whose layers the wind will likely be able to trace,

if my heart could mimic that wind

it can become a hospitable place.

by Jeong Hyeonjong


#4. Sky – Man To Man

Someone high up, someone with power, someone with a lot of wealth all seem like the sky.

No, They are the dark sky controlling our lives.

Where and to whom will I be the sky?

Ah~ We want to be the sky too.

Not dark clouds that press down on others.

One that supports each other.

I wish it could be a world in which we can all be blue skies to each other.

by Cha Do ha


#5. Back to Heaven

I’ll go back to heaven again.

Hand in hand with the dew

that melts at a touch of the dawning day,


I’ll go back to heaven again.

With the dusk, together, just we two,

at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes


I’ll go back to heaven again.

At the end of my outing to this beautiful world

I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful. . . .

by Ch’on Sang-pyong


#6. Today

Today again I confront a day that is a source of mystery.

In this day the past, present and future are one,

just as each drop of water in that river

is linked to a tiny spring in some mountain valley

and linked to the distant, azure sea.


In that way, in this today of mine, being linked to eternity,

at this very moment I am living that eternity.


That means that it is not after I have died

but from today on that I must live eternity,

must live a life worthy of eternity.


I must live in poverty of heart.

I must live with an empty heart.

by Ku Sang