Kim Chi-ha

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Kim Jiha
Born Kim Yeongil
(1941-02-04)February 4, 1941
Mokpo, Jeollanam-do, Korea
Occupation Writer
Language Korean
Period 1963 - present
Korean name
Hangul 김지하
Revised Romanization Gim Jiha
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chiha

Kim Jiha (Korean: 김지하, 1941-) is a Korean poet and playwright.[1]


Kim Jiha was born Kim Yeongil on February 4, 1941 in Mokpo, Jeollanam-do. In 1966, he graduated with a degree in Aesthetics from Seoul National University. In March 1963, under the pen name Kim Jiha, he published the poem "Evening Story" (Jeonyeok iyagi) in the journal Mokpo Literature. He made his official literary debut in 1969.[1]

Kim was a dissident under the Park regime, in fact he took the pen-name "Jiha" because it is the Korean word for "underground".[2] After accusing the regime of extracting false confessions with the use of torture, he was tried and sentenced to death, which was commuted to a life sentence and eventual release following a public outcry. When he further accused the government of using torture to get confessions in the 1974 People's Revolutionary Party case, he was once again sent to prison and his life sentence renewed.[3] He was subject to torture himself.[4] As a Catholic, he compared the suffering of the Korean people with the greater suffering of Jesus Christ.[citation needed] His poem “Five Thieves”, critical of the government, was subject to censorship, as the entire issue of Sasangye magazine in which it was printed was pulled from circulation.[4]


From his first collection, The Yellow Earth, to his collection of lyrical poetry, Looking up at a Starry Field, Kim has displayed a broad literary range including both narrative and lyrical poems, ballads, taeseol, drama, and prose. His works also cover the full gamut of religious thought and philosophy, from the Donghak, to the Catholic, Jeungsan, Avatamska, Zen, and Maitraya tradition.[1]

The majority of Kim’s poems also present satirical social critiques. In The Yellow Earth and With a Burning Thirst, the poet offers a scathing invective of society through the medium of lyric poetry. In ballads such as "Five Bandits" (Ojeok) and "Groundless Rumors", he employs a pansori rhythm and occasionally obscure classical Chinese characters to satirize the misdeeds and corruption of those in power. The pansori rhythm is present again in A Rain Cloud in these Days of Drought, a collection of narrative poems that examine the life and death of Choi Jeu. Love Thy Neighbor, when compared to Kim's earlier works, focuses more directly on the notion of romantic love, thus marking a turning point in the poet’s thematic focus. Looking up at a Starry Field and The Agony of the Center reflect this shifting thematic interest in their lyrical content and intent in relating the individual’s interior monologue. These works also reveal a strong undercurrent of Romanticism, in focusing more deliberately on the poet’s desire to connect with nature than on his discontent with society.[1]

In the 1980s Kim's poetry and thought underwent yet another transfiguration. Distancing himself from the struggle of the labor movement then the dominant theme of the era, the poet was able to develop a fresh perspective on life.[1]

In his play The Gold-Crowned Jesus[5] a leper, the most despised outcast class in Korea, encounters the imprisoned Jesus. Jesus tells the leper that he must help liberate Him. By helping the poor, the gold crown of Jesus will be removed and His lips freed to speak.

Awards and honors[edit]

Works in Translation[edit]

  • "Aufgehen der Knospe" (German Language)
  • Heart's Agony: Selected Poems of Chiha Kim (1998)
  • Cry of the People and Other Poems (1974)
  • The Middle Hour: Selected Poems (1972)
  • The Gold-Crowned Jesus and Other Writings (1978)


  • The Yellow Earth, With a Burning Thirst, South (Nam)
  • Love Thy Neighbor 1-2 (Aerin 1-2),
  • Black Mountain, White Room (Geomeun san hayan bang),
  • A Rain Cloud in These Days of Drought (I gamun nare bigureum),
  • My Mother (Naui eomeoni),
  • Looking up at a Starry Field (Byeolbateul ureoreumyeo),
  • The Agony of the Center (Jungsimui goeroum),
  • Rice (Bap),
  • Boat Songs of the South Land (Namnyeokttang baennorae), and Livelihood (Sallim).


  1. ^ a b c d e f LTI Korea Author Database:
  2. ^ Retrieved, July 27, 2013
  3. ^ William Shaw, ed. Human Rights in Korea: Historical and Policy Perspectives p. 184-5.
  4. ^ a b "Memories of Dictatorship from Not Long Ago". 
  5. ^ Kim, Chi-ha, (1978). The Gold-Crowned Jesus and Other Writings
  6. ^ Arana, R. Victoria (2008). The Facts on File companion to world poetry: 1900 to the present. Infobase Publishing. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-8160-6457-1. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 

External links[edit]