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Ko’s only path to salvation

Mar 07,2018
While keeping silent amid a slew of sexual harassment and misconduct accounts from younger female and male literary figures, veteran poet Ko Un flatly denied the allegations to a foreign media outlet.

In a statement published by The Guardian through his U.K. publisher Bloodaxe Books, Ko said, “I flatly deny charges of habitual misconduct that some individuals have brought up against me.”

He went on to say, “I must affirm that I have done nothing which will bring shame on my wife or myself. All I can say at the moment is that I believe that my writing will continue with my honor as a person and a poet maintained.”

The versatile writer of more than 150 volumes of poetry, who had been fielded as the best candidate from South Korea for the Nobel prize in Literature, had his poems removed from school textbooks and the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to nix the project to build a library commemorating his works.

Instead of regretting his misdeeds, he pleaded to foreign critics and the media for sympathy.

He must not think he can turn the negative publicity through the help of progressive figures in the cultural and social fields under a liberal government. Moon Sung-keun, a longtime actor faithful to liberal presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Moon Jae-in, indirectly defended several perpetrators on his Twitter.

But Korean society is not so naïve as to buy the propaganda scheme. Regardless of some of these defenses, Ko’s erratic sexual misbehavior has long been infamous in the literary scene.

The poet Ryu Keun, who was first to name Ko, said the veteran poet had “bad habits with his hands and body” since the 1960s and 1970s.
Veteran literary critic Kim Byung-ik also testified to the bizarre drinking habits of the 84-year-old poet. The details of his repulsive ways in the presence of female writers have been exposed by the poet Choi Young-min in a poem titled “The Beast,” where Ko is referred as “En.”
Burying his head in the sand does not make the facts go away.

If he wants to save his lifetime literary achievement and his dignity, he must sincerely repent. The progressive front also must not try to muddle the Me Too movement with some ideological campaign.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 6, Page 30