Classical Chinese Poem at Yonsei in Protest of President Park


Posted at Yonsei University (Source)

Furor and outrage have recently arisen over President Park Geunhye’s relationship with her confidante, Choi Soon-sil. In summary, shortly after the assassination of her mother in 1974, the President started developing a close relationship with the confidante and her confidante’s Christian/Shaman cult leader father, who claimed to had seen her deceased mother in his dreams. Decades later during office, President Park repeatedly sent confidential briefings and speeches in advance to her confidante. Choi had also regularly exploited her ties to President Park in a number of shady business dealings. (For further details, Ask a Korean has a wonderful description of the scandal.) In reaction to this incredible chain of events, a group of students at the History Department at Yonsei University posted a Classical Chinese poem in protest of the President, calling for her resignation:

與傀統朴槿惠 여괴통박근혜

Given to the Puppet President Park Geun-Hye

神巫更鷄說 신무경계설 A mysterious shaman fixes your chicken-talk;
孝父改國史 효부개국사 In filial piety to your father, you revised the national history curriculum.
選勝功旣高 선승공기고 In having won an election, your achievements are already many.
知足願云辭 지족원운사 Know what it is to be content and please resign.

This is a parody of General Eulchi Mundeok‘s poem to the Sui dynasty General Yu Zhongwen during the invasion of Goguryeo. General Eulchi would go onto catastrophically defeat General Yu’s forces.

與隋將于仲文詩 여수장우중문시

A Poem Given to Sui General Yu Zhongwen

神策究天文 신책구천문 Your divine stratagem has exhausted astronomical observations;
妙算窮地理 묘산궁지리 Your marvelous calculations have depleted geographical knowledge.
戰勝功旣高 전승공기고 Being victorious in battles, your achievements are already on high.
知足願云止 지족원운지 Know what it is to be content and please stop.

The poem is in turn a reference to the Chinese Taoist classic, Tao Te Ching (道德經, 도덕경):

名與身孰親? 身與貨孰多? 得與亡孰病?

Or fame or life, which do you hold more dear?
Or life or wealth, to which would you adhere?
Keep life and lose those other things;
Keep them and lose your life: – which brings
Sorrow and pain more near?

是故甚愛必大費: 多藏必厚亡.

Thus we may see, who cleaves to fame rejects what is more great;
Who loves large stores gives up the richer state.

知足不辱, 知止不殆, 可以長久.

Who is content needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop incurs no blame.
From danger free, long live shall he.

(Translation by James Legge)

Apologies for the lack of recent posts.

  1. Hi, Kuiwon,
    I do much appreciate your blog. But I wonder why you translate 巫/무/무당 into English shaman. There is no historical evidence of a connection between muism and the Siberian shamanism.

    • 歸源 said:

      It’s just a bunch of college students that tried to create a parody: I wouldn’t put too much thought into it.

  2. mal said:

    Hi Kuiwon, this is crazy, you;’ve gotta explain to me how that works – did the Korean students write the classical chinese poem while “thinking” in the korean language or are they just writing it as a chinese-educated person would in a given chinese language (and if so in which modern chinese language e.g. mandarin?)

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