Tea Talks with Foreign Wives; Poetry Rendition Helps Understand Korean Sentiments

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

Tea Talks with Foreign Wives; Poetry Rendition Helps Understand Korean Sentiments


After five year's stay in Korea, Mrs. Ruth Arazi, wife of the Israeli Ambassador to Korea Ariel Arazi, is confident of her understanding about the Korean people.

``Until you read the literature, you cannot see the inner side of Koreans. Now I can feel the emotions of Koreans and their historical sufferings through my exposure to Korean poetry.''

``Korean shamanism, Buddhism and personal existence in nature comes into full expression in the nation's lyric poems,'' the author and teacher said.

Through her efforts, a book of 60 Korean poems translated into Hebrew will be published in her native country this summer. The Korea-Israeli Women's Association headed by jounalist-turned consumer affairs activist Chong Kwang-mo is financing the book while it is being edited y a publishing house renowned in Israel for poetry publications.

Mrs. Arazi said, ``Korean literature was barely known in Israel whereas we have books on Japanese and Chinese literature. The Korean project is really worthwhile.''

A visiting professor at Kon-Kuk University department of Hebrew and Jewish studies, she is in charge of an undergraduate course on modern Hebrew poetry. In a seminar for senior students last year, she asked them to translate Korean poems into Hebrew and distributed copies of them to foreign service members back home, who highly enjoyed the anthology, leading to a publishing ho se showing interest.

The book carries 60 poems, most of them by living contemporary poets except those by Han Yong-un and Kim So-wol. Prof. Oh Sae-young of Seoul National University's English literature department, who is a poet himself, helped her to choose the poems and Prof. Park Mi-yong, her colleague at Kon-kuk, joined her in the translation.

``We talked a lot about selecting the poems. I read the English version and often found the translation was not exact. In Hebrew, I can reflect the Korean poetic structure and syntax more closely. Korean poetry is very difficult to translate because a word has multiple meanings and a very short sentence can tell a lot. While using the same words in English poems is forbidden, repetition gives the full strength to meanings in Korean poetry.''

``I tried to follow the inner meaning of each sentence. Now, I am very happy even if the outcome is inevitably not perfect,'' Mrs. Arazi said.

The book also carries some 20 pictures of old Korean paintings housed in the Central National Museum of Korea, which she deemed were in tune with the sentiments of Korean poetry.

Born in Tel Aviv, she majored in Hebrew literature and classical studies and took part in drawing up a curriculum for gifted students, while training te chers and working as a counselor for parents. …

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