Born in 1933 in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, Korea, Ko Un is Korea’s foremost living writer. After immense suffering during the Korean War, he became a Buddhist monk. His first poems were published in 1958, his first collection in 1960. A few years later he returned to the world. After years of dark nihilism, he became a leading spokesman in the struggle for freedom and democracy during the 1970s and 1980s, when he was often arrested and imprisoned.
He has published more than 150 volumes of poems, essays, and fiction, including the monumental seven-volume epic Mount Paekdu and the 30-volume Maninbo (Ten Thousand Lives) series. In recent years, more than thirty volumes of translations of his work have been published in some twenty languages. A selection from the first 10 volumes of Maninbo relating to Ko Un’s village childhood was published in the US by Green Integer in 2006 under the title Ten Thousand Lives. A selection from the second 10 volumes was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015 under the title Maninbo 2: Peace and War. Ko Un’s most recent poetry was translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha and published by Bloodaxe in 2012 in First Person Sorrowful.
Ko Un was chosen as the winner of the Golden Wreath, one of the world's most prestigious awards for poetry, for 2014. The Golden Wreath is awarded for a body of work, and was presented to Ko Un at a ceremony in Struga, Macedonia, during the international poetry festival Struga Poetry Evenings in August 2014. Former winners of this award include a number Nobel Laureates in Literature, such as Pablo Neruda (1972), Joseph Brodsky (1991) and Seamus Heaney (2001). Several winners of the Golden Wreath went on to win the Nobel Prize, as with the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, also published by Bloodaxe, who was awarded the Golden Wreath in 2003 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011.
Ko Un has been invited to talk and give readings of his work at major poetry and literary festivals all over the world. See: http://www.koun.co.kr
Books by Ko Un