கொரியாவை அறிவோம்

கொரியா பற்றி கொரியர் சொல்வதை விட, அங்கு வந்து தங்கி, அம்மக்களாகவே மாறிவிட்ட வெளிநாட்டார் சொல்வது இன்னும் சுவையாக உள்ளது. கொரியா பற்றி சகோதரர் அந்தோணி சொல்வதைக் கேளுங்கள். கொரிய இலக்கியம் பற்றிய ஒரு அறிமுகமாகவும் இது அமையும் (குறிப்பாக அந்தோணியார் வலைப்பக்கம் போனால்!)


English priest seeking truth and beauty in Korea

By Bae Hyun-jung

On a spring afternoon, a 67-year-old retired professor enjoys his afternoon green tea in his office, filled with the smell of old books and the sound of gukak, traditional Korean music.

The only factor distinguishing him from other professors of Korean literature is his obvious Western appearance.

Brother Anthony of the Taize community, who prefers to be called by his Korean name An Sonjae, is a top local expert in the English translation of Korean literature, especially the works of renowned Korean poet Ko Un.



He named himself after a young pilgrim who appears in Ko's Buddhist novel "Hwaeomgyeong" (The Avatamsaka Sutra), which he translated years ago.

Not only does the name sound similar to his original English name, but it also reflects his wish to spend his life as a pilgrim seeking the truth, he explained.

After retiring from his 20-year teaching career at Sogang University in 2007, An is now a professor emeritus and freelance translator.

The priest first came to Korea in 1980 at the personal invitation of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan who asked him to "spiritually guide the youths in Korea."

As he belonged to the Taize community, a French originated branch of Christianity which emphasizes a frugal life, self-containment and joint ownership, he started his teaching career in Sogang University to make a living.

He had previously received his master's degree in medieval European literature at the Queen's College in Oxford University.

However, what first started as bread-winning became his life passion, eventually driving him to a Korean citizen in 1994.

"People so often wonder why I chose my Korean nationality," said An. "I don't see why it is so difficult to accept - I just loved Korea and wished to refer to it as 'my country' whenever I wished to do so."

Among Asian countries, Japan tends to strongly attract foreign eye but their culture does not easily let an outsider into its inner layers, An said.

Korean culture, on the other hand, has in its core a sense of compassion and human warmth, which is why he came to love Korea and even become a national, he said.

"The same thing applies to Korean literature - it may at first be difficult for foreigners to understand, especially with all the local expressions, but it contains a deep and warm understanding towards humanity," he said. "I wanted to deliver that beauty into the world."

Though many Koreans tend to think that the absence of Nobel Prize-winning Korean writers is largely due to the lack of translation, An disagrees.

"It is not the number of translated works that matters, but the contents and the writer's viewpoint on human life and his or her own culture," he said. "Having few books translated into English did not stop capable writers from winning the prize in the past few years."

Ko Un, who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times, is one of the Korean writers who should be better recognized in the world literature circles, he also said.

An's collection of interpretations mostly includes classic works by elderly Korean writers such as Ko, poet Cheon Sang-byeong and novelist Shin Kyung-rim.

"The grief and pain, which are so vividly pictured in traditional Korean literature, are universal emotions that readers from all over the world may understand and feel," An said.

He, however, points out that Korean literature needs to leap a step further in order to broaden its boundaries.

"Literature, whether fiction or poetry, needs to offer a sense of hope to its readers," he said. "Koreans need to overcome the pain inherent in their history and culture, and look out on a brighter future."

He also showed worries that the younger generation, especially the young writers, are no longer interested in understanding and preserving the traditional culture.

"It is not just about literature, but the overall culture in general," he said. "I feel sorry that Korea misunderstood modernization to be equal to westernization."

The English-turned-Korean professor is well-acquainted with the Korean traditions such as Chinese characters, old books and ceremonial tea-making.

Among his many written works is one called "Way of Tea," a first English book dealing with Korean tea-making, which was published in 2007, containing his 15-year passion on Korean tea.

"I love 'woori nara (my country)' and hope that other Koreans would do so as well," said An, speaking fluent Korean.

He presently runs a personal webpage for communicating with his acquaintances.

To find out more, visit http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony.

2009.06.08

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