“The Gatekeeper” by Kim Haengsoon

One of the many things I love about watching K-drama is all the wonderful poetry I’ve been introduced to. During episode 10 of Hometown Cha Cha Cha, male protagonist Hong Ban-jang reads the poem “The Gatekeeper” from the collection Portrait of Echoes by Kim Haengsook (so that female protagonist Yoon Hye-jin can fall asleep, though he stops at the word “love”).

Here’s my translation of this bittersweet poem.

Gatekeeper

It’s my job to say, “You can’t do that here.”
It’s my job to deny your objective.
It’s my job to deny you the next day, too.
It’s my job to wait for you the following day to deny you again.
It’s my job to wait for you the day after that and fall in love with you.
So it’s my job to deny my love.

“I won’t cry over my vocation,” I wrote.
But while writing in my diary,
I sometimes wept.

—translated by David Bowles
September 26, 2021

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Original Korean

문지기

여기서 이러시면 안 됩니다, 라고 말하는 것이 내 직업이다.
당신의 목적을 부정하는 것이 내 직업이다.
다음 날도 당신을 부정하는 것이 내 직업이다.
당신을 부정하기 위해 다음 날도 당신을 기다리는 것이 내 직업이다.
그다음 날도 당신을 기다리다가 당신을 사랑하게 되는 것이 내 직업이다.
그리하여 나의 사랑을 부정하는 것이 나의 직업이다.

나의 천직을 이유로 울지 않겠다, 라고 썼다. 일기를 쓸 때 나는 가끔 울었다.

—김행숙
<에코의 초상>

7 Comments

  1. Thank you! I was looking for it! Great!!!

  2. Thank you for this. I was wondering how the poem went. It certainly fits the state of things at the time in Hometown Cha Cha Cha.

  3. Hi! Do you know the book it was taken from? Because it looked like it was a big poem book in entirety. Would be nice if someoke found it out and let us know if there is any English translation of the book. 🙁

  4. I am a Korean learner.
    Thank you for your beautiful translation.
    I found that the bittersweetness in Korean poems always makes my heart skip a beat. But somehow I love.

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