Korean iconic poet Ko Un celebrates his 90th birthday


By Ashraf Aboul-Yazid
President, Asia Jourbnalists Association

SEOUL: When Dr. Sangwha, professor, poet, translator and wife of my dear friend, the Korean iconic poet Ko Un, told me that they are going to publish an anthology to celebrate the 90th Birthday Anniversary of the great poet, I only called two friends to send their poems and share with me this Grand Event: Eldar Akhadov and Ana Stjelia.

Today, I got these photo attachments: my poem in Korean, Eldar’s poem in Korean, Ana Stjelia’s poem in Korean, the front book cover of the Anthology under the title ‘He is Beyond Our Longing’, which is 440-page long, with contributions from 202 poets, artists, fromhome and abroad, and intellectuals and cultural people.


There were also the front book cover of my friend Sangwha’s love poems, dedicated to Ko Un as ‘a surprise’. The title is Joy with Ko Un. The book’s title and painting are hers (the title of her painting is Ko Un’s Hands. He is writing on a blank page against the sky).

The final cover is for volume of English Maninbo, published on Ko Un’s birthday to celebrate his ninety lives.


The celebration took place on July 26 in a huge Ecology School auditorium in Yang Pyeong, near Seoul, and some 200 people– poets and writers, artists, intellectuals, culture people from all parts of Korea gathered to celebrate Ko Un’s birthday.

The place was decorated with many placards made with calligraphy and Ko Un’s photos; he gifted me two of his calligraphy of my name (Ashraf Aboul-Yazid) in English and Korean when we met this summer in Seoul, with my friends Lee Sang-ki and Lee Joo-heyong.


The ceremony and celebration lasted for about five hours with two Parts, with several congratulatory speeches, traditional and modern songs, including our national beautiful pop song ‘Senoya Senoya’ set to Ko Un’s lyrics.

There are three songs set to Ko Un’s beautiful, simple and deep lyrics, ‘Senoya Senoya’, ‘Autumn Letter’, ‘A Little Boat’, all much loved by Korean people.

The ceremony featured traditional instruments, dances, with wonderful Korean food and drinks, and went on all through the evening.

Ko Un made a brilliant, much -loved speech, this time concentrating on the ocean waves.


At the end of the First Part with Ko Un’s speech, Dr. Sangwha went up onto the platform, as nobody knew nor expected, to dedicate her secret book of love poems which she had secretly prepared, with the publisher for months, to Ko Un, an utter surprise, and it was received with great cheers and much pleasure by the participants. Ko Un was really surprised.

Ko Un and Sangwha expressed their true and deep grateful to me, Ana, and Eldar, for our “great contribution to this beautiful huge Anthology. “She wanted me to share her email with Ana and Eldar.

The concluding news is that Ko Un’s grand 1100-page-long epic of ‘Cheong’ (Song of Sim Cheong) is going to be published early October, and that three new poetry books will be out in the spring next year.


“We are all looking forward to seeing many more works will be continuously out year by year,” Sangwha Wrote:

“It’s all thanks to your superb warm and loving hearts. For now, with our warmest regards, Sangwha,” with palms joined.

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