In March 1923, Lee Sang-hwa went to Japan to study French language and literature. Graduated, but returned home the following year due to the Great Kanto Earthquake in September. From this point, as a poet, he expressed strong anger toward the Japanese colonial rule and inflamed his spirit of resistance.
In 1926, was published on the June issue of the magazine ‘Kaebyuk’. The work contained strong rebellious character, triggered the closure of the magazine ‘Kaebyuk’. It drew tremendous attention from the literacy community. The poem is evaluated as a masterpiece of national resistance literature for its exclusive use of pure Korean language and avoidance of Chinese characters.
Now on foreign soil – does spring come to these stolen fields?
My whole body basks in the sunlight,
Towards there blue sky meets green fields,
I walk as if I am walking through a dream,
Following the path of the rice paddies just seem like a hair parted by a plow.
In 1927, imprisoned due to his involvement in the “Lee Jong-am Incident”,
In 1928, implicated in the “Giyeok-dang Incident” (he was a member of the publishing department of the Shin-gan-hoe Daegu branch) and was once again investigated,
Teached both Korean and English at Gyonam School,
Managed the Gyeongsangbuk-do office of the Chosun Ilbo newspaper,
In 1934, he established a boxing club at Gyonam School,
In 1937, he went to China to meet his older brother, an independence fighter, General Lee Sang-jeong, but was investigated by the Japanese police and faced hardships once again.
Although he returned to work at Gyonam School, he eventually had to resign due to a controversy over the school song, which was written by him. Afterward, he devoted himself to literature, research, and planned projects such as an English translation of the and a history of Korean literature. He spent the rest of his life immersed in his studies.
Due to the past torture and continuous surveillance, his health deteriorated and passed away on April 25, 1943, from the stomach cancer, without being able to see the liberation of his nation.
In 1948, three years after the national liberation, the first poetic memorial stone in Dalseong Park in Daegu, Republic of Korea’s first modern literature, was built.
The 11th Line:
「Madonna」 Dreams that come with the night, And those that we weave with delight, Are they not akin to the dreams we hold tight, In the depths of our souls, through life’s every plight?
Come, let us journey to my room, Where time has not touched, Like a child’s womb, Let us bask in the beauty of this timeless tomb, And cherish the memories that forever bloom.
「Madonna」 appears to be a ‘beloved woman,’ but it also means ‘the desire of the people.’
In the verse, ‘bedroom’ and ‘beautiful and long-lasting place’ refer to the desired destination that wants to reach, and ultimately it represents the eternal and aspirational place that our oppressed nation wished for, during the Japanese colonial period, just like the title .
The poet, who did not witness the liberation, still dreams of reaching the eternal place.
Lee Sang-hwa, the independent activists and the major figure of first poetic monument in Korean history. Now it is your turn to complete what he had dreamed of for the better future!