Kwang-Kyu Kim was born in Seoul in 1941. During his childhood, he witnessed the re-establishment of Korean independence, the Korean War and the division of the country. In 1960 he began to study German and took part in the initially hopeful student protests against the Korean dictatorship. After completing his military service and spending a short time as a German teacher, he started his academic career. In the early Seventies he escaped the oppressive political climate by studying in Munich. There he completed his doctorate and wrote his thesis on Günter Eich’s poetry and radio plays. He taught at the Busan National University and later at the Hanyang University in Seoul.
Kim is one of the most important and most often read Korean poets. At the age of 38 his first volume of poetry was published: »Uri-rul choksinun majimak kkum« (1979; Engl: The Last Dream at the Tide). Although banned by the military dictatorship, it was nevertheless published in over 20 editions. In this work Kim – using a plain literary style – gave new dimension to Korean poetry which had become stuck in an artificial modernist form. His poems create clear images abounding with a wealth of meaning. Their realistic description harmoniously balances nostalgia, irony and faith. In doing so, the presentation of common things and events unpretentiously surpasses the banal, emphasising the conflict between the individual, society, and nature. »I draw from everyday experience, but I do not linger on the superficial motives of everyday life. Instead I try to raise an awareness for the human condition behind the everyday and make it visible.« So far Kim has published, as well as a volume of prose, eight collections of poetry, including: »Anida kurohch’i ant’a« (1983; Engl: No, it is not so), »Mulkil« (1994; Engl: Waterway), and more recently »Tschoum mannatssul Ttae« (2003; Engl: At the First Encounter). He has received many prizes, including the Nogwon, the Kim Soo Young, the Pyonun and the Daesan Literature Prize. A selection of Kim’s poetry was published in German under the title »Die Tiefe der Muschel« (1999; Engl: The Depth of the Shell). His poetry has also been published in German language literary publications, including: »die horen«, »drehpunkt« and »Sprache im technischen Zeitalter«. Kim has visited Germany several times, where he has received grants, participated in writers’ conferences and literature festivals, and continued his linguistic research. He was Professor in residence in Vienna and Siegen and he dedicated himself with particular enthusiasm to the German-Korean literary exchange. He helped organise the Korean Literature Week in Berlin in 1992, in addition the Week of German Literature in Seoul in 1993 and its followups in subsequent years. With his wife, the specialist in German studies and translator Heyong Chong, he was involved in the presentation of a literary city portrait of the metropolis of Seoul in Stuttgart and in Munich. The couple live with their two children in Seoul.
© international literature festival berlin