Yun Bonggil – Kindhearted Guests

Yun Bongil Captured

Yun Bonggil (尹奉吉, 윤봉길, 1908-1932) was a Korean independence activist. He was of the Papyeong Yun Clan (坡平尹氏, 파평윤씨); his original name was Ueui (禹儀, 우의); and his pen name (號, 호) was Maeheon (梅軒, 매헌). Born during the Japanese occupation of Korea, he dropped out of primary school to join the Korean independence movement in response to the March 1st Movement of 1919. To promote Korean agrarian cause, he wrote essays on the agrarian life and established the Revival Center (復興院, 부흥원). On March 6 1930, he wrote, “When a mature man leaves the house, he never returns” (丈夫出家生不還, 장부출가생불환), and decided to emigrate to Manchuria to join the Korean independence movement there. On April 29 1932, Yun Bonggil conducted a bomb attack in Hongkou Park (虹口公園, 홍구공원, Honggu Gongweon), now Lu Xun Park (魯迅公園, 노신공원, Noshin Gongweon), in Shanghai (上海, 상해, Sanghae), where a group of Japanese officials gathered in celebration of the Japanese Emperor’s Birthday. The attack injured and killed few Japanese military officers, including Imperial Army General Shirakawa Yoshinori (白川 義則, 시라카라 요시노리, 1865-1932) who lead Japanese troops in taking Shanghai in the January 28th Incident earlier that year. Yun Bonggil was arrested at the scene, tried in Shanghai, and executed and buried in Kanazawa (金沢/金澤, 가나자와) in Japan. His actions were widely lauded among Korean independence activists and Chinese anti-Japanese resistance fighters, with Chiang Kaishek (蔣介石, 장개석, Jang Gaeseok, 1887-1975) praising, “One Korean has achieved something great that four hundred million Chinese people could not do.” Yun Bonggil also wrote a large amount of Classical Chinese poetry. The following poem was written shortly before he emigrated to Manchuria in 1930.

多情客 다정객

Kindhearted Guests

歷歷光陰何大忽 력력광음하대홀
春風已過夏霖晴 춘풍이과하림청
禮靑洪客多情席 례청홍객다정석
薄酒三盃一詠聲 박주삼배일영성

The clear and radiant light and darkness, how can it be so very quick?
Spring winds have already passed and the Summer rain has already cleared.
Guests from Yesan, Cheong’yang, and Hongseong very kindheartedly sit.
With thin liquor, three glasses are filled and one tune is sung.

Definitions:

Radiant • radiant • light • darkness • how • greatly • quickly
Spring • wind • already • to pass • Summer • monsoon • to be clear
Rites • blue • waters • guest • many • love • to sit
Thin • liquor • three • glass • one • tune • to sound

Notes:

  • This is an uncommon form of a heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言節句, 칠언절구) where the first line does not end with a riming character.
  • 光陰(광음) – Literally means “light and darkness.” Refers to time.
  • 禮靑洪(예청홍) – Refers to three cities Yesan (禮山, 예산), Cheong’yang (靑陽, 청양), and Hongseong (洪城, 홍성), all of which are in South Chungcheong Province (忠靑南道, 충청남도). Yun Bonggil was born in Yesan.
  • 薄酒(박주) – Literally means “thin liquor.” Refers to alcohol of poor quality or one that is unpalatable. 
2 comments
  1. 薄酒, as you noted is wine of inferior quality. However, this is not to be taken literally. It is self-deprecation. I would translate your last line as,

    “Alas, my humble wine, three cups full and one song sung.”

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