Yun Dong-ju

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Yun Dong-ju
Yun Dong-ju.jpg
Korean name
Hangul 윤동주
Revised Romanization Yun Dong-ju
McCune–Reischauer Yun Tongju
Pen name
Hangul 해환
Revised Romanization Haehwan
McCune–Reischauer Haehwan
This is a Korean name; the family name is Yun.

Yun Dong-ju (Korean pronunciation: [jundoŋdʑu]; December 30, 1917 – February 16, 1945) was a Korean poet.[1] Known for his writing of lyric poetry as well as resistance poetry, he was born in Longjing, Jilin, China.


Yun Dong-ju was the eldest son among the 4 children of his father Yun Yeong-seok and his mother Kim Yong. As a child he was called "Haehwan" (해환, 海煥 [hɛːhwan]). He entered Eunjin Middle School in Longjing in 1932, and then returned to Korea to attend Soongsil Middle School in Pyeongyang in 1936. When the school was closed down in the same year he moved back to Longjing and attended the Gwangmyeong Institute.[2] On December 27, 1941 at the age of 23 years, 11 months, 27 days, he graduated from Yeonhui Technical School, which later became Yonsei University. He had been writing poetry from time to time, and chose 19 poems to publish in a collection he intended to call "Sky, Wind, Star, and Poem" (하늘과 바람과 별과 시),[3] but he was unable to get it published.

In 1942, he went to Japan and entered the English literature department of Rikkyo University in Tokyo, before moving to Doshisha University in Kyoto six months later. On July 14, 1943, he was arrested as a thought criminal by the Japanese police and detained at the Kamogawa Police Station in Kyoto. The following year, the Kyoto regional court sentenced him to two years of prison on the charge of having participated in the Korean independence movement. He was imprisoned in Fukuoka, where he died in February 1945.[4]

His poetry was finally published in 1948, when three collections of handwritten manuscripts were published posthumously as The Heavens and the Wind and the Stars and Poetry (Haneulgwa Baramgwa Byeolgwa Si). With the appearance of this volume Yun came into the spotlight as a Resistance poet of the late occupation period.[5]

In November 1968, Yonsei University and others established an endowment for the Yun Tong-ju Poetry Prize.


The Korea Literature Translation Institute summarizes Yun's contributions to Korean literature:

Yun’s poetry is notable for the childlike persona of his narrators, a sensitive awareness of a lost hometown, and an unusual scapegoat mentality deriving from a sense of shame at not being able to lead a conscientious life in a period of gloomy social realities. “Life and Death” (Salmgwa jugeum) is representative of the poems dating from 1934 to 1936, his period of literary apprenticeship. It describes the conflict between life and death, or light and darkness, but its poetic framework is more or less crude. From 1937 onwards, however, his poems reveal ruthless introspection and anxiety about the dark realities of the times. The poems of this later period reach a clear literary fruition in terms of their reflection on the inner self and their recognition of nationalist realities, as embodied in the poet's own experiences. In particular, they evince a steely spirit that attempts to overcome anxiety, loneliness, and despair and to surmount contemporary realities through hope and courage.[6]

Sky, Wind, Star and Poem[edit]

In January 1948, 31 of his poems were published by Jeongeumsa, together with an introduction by fellow poet Chong Ji-yong; this work was also titled Sky, Wind, Star, and Poem. His poetry had a huge impact. In 1976, Yun's relatives collected his other poems and added them to a third edition of the book. The poems that are in this edition (116 in total) are considered to be most of Yun's works.

In a 1986 survey, he was selected as 'the most popular poet amongst the youth.[7] To this day, he is still one of the most popular and beloved poets of all time in Korea.

The following is a Korean-English translation of one of his famous poems.


죽는 날까지 하늘을 우러러 한 점 부끄럼 없기를

잎새에 나는 바람에도 나는 괴로와 했다

별을 노래하는 마음으로 모든 죽어가는 것을 사랑해야지

그리고 나에게 주어진 길을 걸어가야겠다

오늘 밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다

The Proem(or Prologue):

Till my last, to suffer not a blot of shame on looking up at heaven,

My heart has been tormented by mere rustlings of the leaves.

In a spirit of chanting stars, I shall love all the moribund lives.

Then, let me walk on my path given.

The wind whisks by stars as ever on this even.

In popular culture[edit]

In Lee Jung-myung's novel The Investigation (title of English translation of original Korean novel) is, inter alia, "an imaginative paean to" Yun.[8]

In 2011, Yun Dong-ju Shoots the Moon, a musical based on his life, was performed by the Seoul Performing Arts Company.[9]

See also[edit]


  • Yu, Jong-ho (1996). "Yun, Tong-ju". Who's Who in Korean Literature. Seoul: Hollym. pp. 554–555. ISBN 1-56591-066-4. 
  • Choi, Dong-Ho. 2002. "A Study of Intertextuality between Yoon Dong Ju's 'Another Hometown' and Lee Sang's 'The Lineage': Centering on the Poetic Wrod 'the Skeleton'," 3Journal of the research Socity of Language and Literature 39: 309-325. [in Korean]


  1. ^ ""Yoon Dongju" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at:
  2. ^ "Yoon Dongju" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at:
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Yoon Dongju" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at:
  5. ^ "Yoon Dongju" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at:
  6. ^ Source-attribution|""Yoon Dongju" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at:
  7. ^
  8. ^ Kim Young-jin, 2024, book review of The Investigation, p. 17, The Korea Times, 12–13 April.
  9. ^

External links[edit]