Remembering our mentor, Cho Ji Hoon
KU held a week-long commemoration of the centennial of Cho’s birth
“The Collected Poems of Ji Hoon”, a draft of Cho’s unpublished poetry anthology, and the letter of resignation he carried around while serving as a professor, displayed to the public for the first time
The “Cho Ji Hoon reading room” is open and a special exhibition “On the Way to the Light, A Hundred Years of Cho Ji Hoon Shimmers Gently” has commenced
In commemoration of the centennial of the birth of Cho Ji Hoon (1920-1968), KU designated the second week of November as the “Week of Cho Ji Hoon” and paid tribute to his ideas.
Cho is widely respected as a patriot and poet who promoted Korean culture, and while serving as a professor at KU, he wrote the university’s school song and the inscriptions on the Tiger Statue and the 4.18 Monument.
The event was co-hosted by various KU institutions including the College of Liberal Arts where Cho was a professor, the Department of Korean Language and Literature, the Research Institute of Korean Studies whose first director was Cho, the University Museum, which has received some of Cho’s most treasured possessions and books, KU Library and KU Medicine. It conveyed the breadth of Cho’s personality and provided members of the KU community and of the public with a meditative space in which to contemplate the right direction for our time.
On Monday, November 9, the Week of Cho Ji Hoon began with the opening ceremonies of the “Cho Ji Hoon reading room” and the University Museum’s special exhibition “On the Way to the Light, A Hundred Years of Cho Ji Hoon Shimmers Gently.”
In celebration of the centennial of Cho’s birth, KU Library built the Cho Ji Hoon reading room where 1,200 books and ten types of writing materials donated by Cho are stored, and collections of his poems are displayed. KU Library plans to permanently manage this reading room, which is a small library within the Main Library where users can appreciate Cho’s literary works and study at their leisure. The opening ceremony of the reading room was held at 10:40 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Main Library. The Cho Ji Hoon reading room is located in Room 401B, the Material Preservation and Restoration Room, on the fourth floor of the Main Library. Hong Il-sik, former President of KU, Seog Young-joong, Director of KU Library, and the bereaved family of the late poet took a commemorative photograph in front of an inscription of a text of Cho’s. On a bookcase in the reading room, literarily significant works by Cho such as his first and last poetry anthologies and “The Dance of the Buddhist Nun” (1939) are exhibited in glass frames, and in the right corner of the bookcase, eight rare books are stored. Reading room materials are accessible to anyone.
Subsequently, at 11 a.m., the opening ceremony of the University Museum’s special exhibition “On the Way to the Light, A Hundred Years of Cho Ji Hoon Shimmers Gently” was held in the special exhibition hall of the Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall.
The University Museum is holding a special exhibition looking back on Cho’s life and legacy through Cho’s possessions such as his handwritten manuscripts, books and personal belongings, which have been donated by his family. In addition to the bereaved family, KU President Chung Jin Taek, former President Hong Il-sik, Director of the University Museum Kang Jae-hoon, KU Library Director Seog Young-joong and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Lee Hyung-dae attended the event.
Kim Sang-deok, Executive Manager of the Curatorial Department of the University Museum who compered the event, said regretfully, “This special exhibition could have been the largest such event in the museum’s history, but unfortunately the number of participants had to be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” He further explained the background of the special exhibition on Cho Ji Hoon. “Cho’s name sprang to mind as a person who represented Korea University with great dignity when we were planning an exhibition while building the Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall in 2002, and we received Cho’s possessions from his family in 2003 in order to hold this special exhibition.”
In his speech, KU President Chung Jin Taek stated, “It is a pleasure to commemorate Cho Ji Hoon who shared his time on earth with Korea University. I am overwhelmed that the University Museum, which has such a long history and rich tradition, is holding a special exhibition on Cho and his works.” He continued, “Cho was a poet and a scholar who studied ethnic culture, and through his participation in the 4.18 student movement he served as a good example of the engagé intellectual. I hope Cho’s beautiful poems and songs and forthright statements on society echo among future generations.”
Before the presentation of a memorial gift, Kang Jae-hoon, the Director of the University Museum stated, “We wanted to prepare a truly special memorial gift,” and presented a replica of the “Collected Poems of Ji Hoon,” which Cho kept until his last day. Kang stated, “It is a small book but it shows love and respect for Cho,” explaining that the collection is more significant in that it is Cho’s handwritten manuscript that had never been published.
The special exhibition serves as a stage to showcase the “Collected Poems of Ji Hoon”, which is the handwritten manuscript of Cho’s unpublished poems. Here, people can appreciate and understand Cho’s valuable works that laid the foundation of Korea’s poetic literature and of modern Korean studies.
Cho Tae-yul, Cho's son and a former Vice Foreign Minister, attended the ceremony and gave his impression, saying, “I am happy to see that various events are being held at Korea University where my father left his most significant mark. This is the first time that the “”Collected Poems of Ji Hoon” has been published in book form. I remember reading it many times when I was little. It feels like I am with my father in his study.”
The opening ceremony was followed by a viewing of the exhibition led by the curator Park You-min. On the first floor of the exhibition hall of the University Museum, art works including the “Portrait of Cho Ji Hoon” created by the painter Park Hwa-soon and phrases from Cho’s poems inscribed in the form of milestones are displayed. The exhibition hall on the first basement floor is composed of eight sections, each of which is named after certain phrases in Cho’s poems, such as “The Fully Ripened Scent of Old Memories” and “Blades of Grass Evenly Moist with Dew.” Artifacts such as a durumagi, a traditional Korean overcoat, smoking pipes and pens, all of which symbolize Cho's life, are displayed throughout the exhibition hall. In addition, among a total of 770 items donated by Cho’s family, 430 are displayed, including handwritten manuscripts, notes, parts of poetry anthologies and the original draft of the “Collected Poems of Ji Hoon”, which is believed to have been written circa 1943. ”The “Collected Poems of Ji Hoon” contains 31 poems, but the manuscript was never published, as the Blue Deer Anthology was published instead,” the curator Park explained. The special exhibition is scheduled to be held at KU’s University Museum from November 9 to March 20, 2021.
Cho Ji Hoon, a mentor we remember
Commemorative Lecture and Memorial Symposium Commemorating the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth
On Wednesday, November 11, at 2 p.m., the “Commemorative Lecture and Memorial Symposium Commemorating the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth” was held at the international teleconference room in KU’s Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall. For undergraduate students’ in-depth understanding of Cho’s literary works and studies, a memorial poem was recited and a roundtable discussion to commemorate Cho was held, in which Cho's former students participated.
The event was held in accordance with the COVID-19 prevention guidelines, with all participants wearing masks and complying with the social distancing policy. It was broadcast in real time via a YouTube channel set up by the KU Department of Korean Language and Literature for students who were not able to attend. Lee Hyung-dae, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, honored Cho’s works, pointing out that in a barren academic landscape and chaotic political environment, Cho, who was an outstanding poet and a distinguished intellectual working in academia, focused on ethnic culture and devoted himself to systematically establishing the field as an academic discipline. Lee hoped the event would provide students an opportunity to ruminate over Cho’s teaching that one should live a selfless life dedicated to one's nation and to other people, rather than focusing on the realization of one's personal interests, so that one can live a wise and meaningful life. Cho Tae-yul, Cho's son and a former Korean Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked KU for holding the event and stated that he was certain that the warm and special relationship between his father and his students served as an inspiring example. Former Ambassador Cho concluded his remarks by hoping that the stories told by his father’s students at the event could play their part in spreading wisdom on how we should live our lives in today’s world.
The first part of the event began as Oh Tak-bon, a poet and honorary professor at KU, recited a memorial poem, among others. Oh recited the poems “Spring Snow” and “Condolences for Ji Hoon”, and shared his memories of Cho. Subsequently, Lee Kyung-soo, a professor at Chung-ang University's Department of Korean Language and Literature, gave a lecture on Cho’s poetic world, comparing his work to that of the poets Jeong Ji Yong and Kim Su-Young. He also examined the emphasis in Cho’s poems on the need to restore lost values and spirit, which provides an opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves, living at a time when true conservative values are being challenged. In addition, Lee Jae-bok, a professor at Hanyang University's Department of Korean Language and Literature, gave a lecture on the discovery of tradition and the establishment of a national culture from the perspective of the interpretative principles of Cho’s academic works and his intellectual formation. In this lecture, Professor Lee argued that as Cho established an academic project by revising and supplementing the extant tradition, what is necessary today is to do likewise with Cho’s extensive and profound academic work, thereby further developing it.
The second part of the event was comprised of a memorial symposium at which three of Cho's former students spoke, Honorary Professors Hong Il-sik, Kim Heung-kyu and Choi Dong-ho from the Department of Korean Language and Literature. At the symposium “In Memory of Cho Ji Hoon,” they shared their memories of him with enthusiasm. Honorary Professor Hong Il-sik, who is also a former President of KU, shared specific anecdotes of his university years that captured Cho’s strong-willed yet gentle personality. He described Cho as “broad-minded but sensitive, cool but diligent, and easygoing but dignified”, and praised him as “an honorable person who was rigorous and had a mind of his own in in determining correctness and incorrectness, right and wrong, virtue and vice and beauty and ugliness.” He stated that Cho was a cultured man of many talents and a noble character. Honorary Professor Choi explained Cho’s contemporary nationwide reputation, and recalled him being a great figure in every way, from his appearance to the course of his life. His memory of visiting Cho’s house due to a curfew and Cho willingly allowing him to stay overnight showed how Cho was a true mentor with a warm personality, and this recollection impressed the audience. Furthermore, Honorary Professor Kim shared how he had been overwhelmed by Cho’s exam questions and that he was a professor who had great influence over students, even though Professor Kim himself could not attend many of Cho’s lectures due to health problems. Professor Kim also praised Cho for his achievements as the director of the Research Institute of Korean Studies.
For the last part of the event, a ceremony was held to celebrate the publication of “A Study of Cho Ji Hoon 2,” a book-length compilation of the best research papers on Cho's works and the field of ethnic culture, which was published after the publication in 1978 of “A Study of Cho Ji Hoon”. In his congratulatory remarks, Hong Il-sik, former President of KU, stated that he would like to encourage researchers to study Cho’s writings, suggesting that they focus on what Cho must have imagined and contemplated and that they not restrict themselves to his tangible achievements only. Thereafter, the Director of the Korea University Press Yoon In-jin delivered a greeting and stated that in the process of publishing the book, he once again felt the importance of the KU Press’s role in publishing notable academic work. The ceremony was successfully concluded with a speech by Oh Hyung-yup, Head of the Department of Korean Language and Literature, who briefly explained how the book was published and talked of Cho as a true mentor who fulfilled his calling as an intellectual.
Understanding Cho Ji Hoon’s Life and Poetry
Cho Ji Hoon’s Poetry Reading Festival
On Thursday, November 12, at 3:30 p.m., a poetry reading festival “Readings of Poetry by Cho Ji Hoon in Commemoration of the Centennial of His Birth” was held in Room 202 of the College of Liberal Arts building. During the festival, KU students looked back on Cho’s life, recited his significant works, and performed songs composed by adding melody to his poems. Commentaries on Cho’s life and the text of poems were provided to aid understanding.
The event began with remarks by Lee Hyung-dae, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who said, “I hope the spirit of Cho Ji Hoon comes alive as a mentor for students through this event.” In his speech, Lee ruminated about the meaning of the event by stating, “Poems are best understood when we read them out loud because they are vessels that hold movements, waves of sounds and auditory rhythms. I hope that these poetry readings provide an opportunity to experience Cho’s remarkable spirit, truth and wisdom, which are embedded in his works.”
Cho Tae-yul, Cho’s third son and a former Korean Ambassador to the United Nations, also participated in this event. He talked of his expectations, saying “I am curious how the students will feel about my father’s poems and what kind of lessons they will get from them.” Students participating in the event recited Cho’s poems and shared their impressions. In the first session, students recited “The Old-Fashioned Dress,” which was Cho’s debut poem, “The Dance of the Buddhist Nun,” which is Cho’s most well-known poem, “Mountain Lodge,” which was written when Cho was staying at Woljeongsa Temple while impersonating a monk, and “Shedding of the Petals,” which contains thoughtful observations on the world that Cho set down after retiring to his hometown during the Japanese colonial period.
Before the second session, Jeon Eon-ho (Department of Korean Language and Literature, ’19) performed a song he wrote by adding melody to Cho’s poem “Longing.” Enjoying the performance, Cho Tae-yul showed his satisfaction and said, “I thought many people would find my father’s poems difficult because his works have almost never been adapted to popular music sung by people. I hope the performances today open a door to the popularization of his poems.”
In the second session, students recited Cho’s late poems, in particular those dealing with the social and personal hardships he had to suffer. Lee Do-hun (Department of Korean Language and Literature, ’19) recited the inscription on the Tiger Statue that Cho dedicated to his students at KU, and commented that memories, excitement and yearning for university life sometimes cross his mind. In the second session, “At Dabuwon”, which depicts the brutality of the Korean War, “We Know How You Feel,” which is about the 4.18 student movement, and “To My Illness,” which was Cho’s last work and describes his illness in a serene voice, were recited, and participants exchanged some remarks, praising Cho’s spirit.
In concluding the poetry reading, Professor Kim Jung-hun of the Department of Korean Language and Literature who planned this event stated, “Just as the poet Pak Mog-weol responded to the lonely Cho Ji Hoon as set down in Cho’s poem ‘Wanhwasam’, this event has been a meaningful opportunity to respond to Cho as the subject of awe and respect of his time.”
Humanities Festival Commemorating the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth
“Cho Ji Hoon’s Scholarly Footsteps are Explored”
On Friday, November 13, which was the last day of the Week of Cho Ji Hoon, a conference titled “Humanities Festival Commemorating the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth” was held at the international teleconference room in KU’s Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall, starting at 1 p.m. This conference for undergraduate and graduate students and researchers, the purpose of which was to deeply explore Cho’s literary world, consisted of presentations from five speakers from the fields of poetry, poetics, intellectual history, ethnic culture and history, and of related discussions.
KU President Chung Jin Taek, who attended the conference, said in his congratulatory remarks, “I hope that Cho Ji Hoon’s distinguished accomplishments are not viewed as purely historical, but that they become an ideological and cultural force paving the way to the future.” Each speaker had thirty minutes to give his or her presentation, which was followed by comments from the designated panelists.
The conference kicked off with a presentation by Professor Hong Yong-hui of Kyung Hee Cyber University's Department of Media Creative Writing on “Classical Aesthetic Consciousness and Historical Responsiveness – Cho Ji Hoon's Theory.” In his presentation, Professor Hong tracked the inner process through which the classical aesthetic consciousness reflected in Cho’s poems translates into the practical will to revolutionize reality. Taking into account Cho’s most well-known works such as “The Dance of the Buddhist Nun” and “The Grief of the Phoenix,” which reflect a traditional sense of beauty, Professor Hong examined how such aesthetic consciousness turns into the practical will to change reality, and argued that the answer lies in Cho’s sense of time. According to Professor Hong’s analysis, the present and future are affected by history, and since the classical aesthetic consciousness is also a force that moves towards the future, Cho expressed his will to move forward in response to the voices from the past. In this regard, Professor Yeo Tae-cheon of Dongduk Women’s University's Department of Korean Language and Literature commented that Professor Hong’s analysis was impressive in that it evaluated both classical aesthetic consciousness and the consciousness of participation in the practical world as parts of a single continuum of movement, which have been understood by others as two separate things based on Benjamin’s concept of time.
Second, Professor Yoo Seong-ho of Hanyang University's Department of Korean Language and Literature delivered his presentation on “The Origin of Cho Ji Hoon’s Literary Works and the Direction of His Poetics – Focusing on Contemporary Media and Trends in Writing” to explain the trajectory of Cho’s poetic world. According to the presentation, in a period of turbulence in Korean history, Cho sympathized with the changes people had to go through but maintained poetic consistency. He wrote lyrical poems and poems that reflected the spirit of a classical scholar, and emphasized language as the most important element in poetry. With respect to the presentation, Professor Kim Jong-hoon of KU's Department of Korean Language and Literature explained the social and historical context of Cho’s poems as well as the forms of media of the time, and commented that the presentation provided an opportunity to analyze and think about the overall context of Cho’s literary world.
The third presentation on “The Post-War Intellectual Milieu and Status of Cho Ji Hoon” discussed issues related to intellectual history. Stating that the description of Cho solely as a nationalist is inadequate, Professor Kim Geon-woo of Daejeon University's Department of Korean Language and Literature and Literary Creative Writing explored the meaning of nationalism of that time and assessed the thoughts expressed by Cho during the twenty years after the liberation from Japanese colonial rule. Professor Cho Kang-sok of Yonsei University's Department of Korean Language and Literature gave his impression of the issues dealt with in the presentation, saying “This discussion has helped me to understand Cho's standpoint and his position, because of our consideration of the situation of his time.” A discussion on the scope of “ethnicity” explored by Cho took place thereafter.
Research Professor Ko Ji-hye of KU's Research Institute of Korean Studies delivered the fourth presentation on “The Cho Ji Hoon of 1964 and the Ethnic Culture Project.” Stating that her intention was to evaluate Cho’s work on ethnic culture from the perspective of academic history, Professor Ko summarized the conventional system of meaning embedded in Cho’s academic activities, and examined how this system was imbricated in forums for discussion in the 1960s. Professor Kim Jun-hyeon of Sungshin Women’s University's Narrative in Culture Major emphasized the importance of establishing Cho’s position as a scholar, stating, “Cho’s accomplishments, including his literary works, have not been fully understood as parts of a whole.”
The fifth presentation and discussion was on “Cho Ji Hoon's Study of Korean History: A Path to the Establishment of an Ethnic Intellectual History”. Explaining that the key to Cho’s research lies in intellectual history, Professor Cho Hyeong-yeol of Dong-A University's History Department examined the neo-Kantian prism through which he viewed Korean history, and explored the meaning of Cho’s research on Korean history. Professor Heo Eun of KU's Department of Korean History explained, “It is not easy to explain Cho Ji Hoon from a historical perspective. In order to understand him, it is necessary to place him in the situation that he would have faced if he had not died, and examine him from that perspective.”
Donation of A Letter of Resignation Kept on His Person by Cho Ji Hoon
During the Week of Cho Ji Hoon, a letter of resignation that Cho always kept with him while serving as a professor at KU was displayed to the public. This letter symbolizes a decision made by Cho for the sake of his students, as KU had been ordered to close indefinitely because it had participated in the protest against the Treaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan.
Former President of KU Hong Il-sik, who participated in various events held during the Week of Cho Ji Hoon, gave KU the letter.
Titled “Letter of Resignation”, it begins with the sentence “To the best of my poor ability, I have contributed to Korea University by serving as a professor, and I have never made any mistake or error that might be subject to disciplinary action.” In the letter, Cho said that with respect to the order to close imposed on Korea University, the best course of action he could take was to resign of his own accord so that the students could resume their studies as soon as possible.
In April of the same year, when the Korean and Japanese governments agreed to sign the above-mentioned treaty, KU student activist groups began to organize demonstrations in protest. On April 13, approximately 2,000 KU students participated in a protest, and from June 18 onwards, KU students demonstrated en masse on consecutive days. On June 22 the treaty was finally signed, and in consequence, KU students gathered to hold demonstrations opposing the treaty’s ratification and demanding its invalidation. In response to the continued demonstrations, the government sent the army into KU in August to suppress protesters, and ordered KU and Yonsei University to be closed indefinitely, starting from September 6.
It is said that Cho, who had been branded at the time as an instigator of the students’ resistance, carried around a letter of resignation with him. He considered that resigning from his position was the best course of action, as it would ensure that the students could continue their studies.
Letter of Resignation
“To the best of my poor ability, I have contributed to Korea University by serving as a professor for eighteen years, and I have never made any mistake or error that might be subject to disciplinary action. Therefore, regardless how harsh or lenient it might be, I cannot accept any disciplinary action Korea University imposes, and I hereby express my intent to resign of my own accord. I am aware that I will have to offer myself as a scapegoat in exchange for withdrawing the order to close imposed on Korea University, and resignation is the best course of action I can take in order for students to resume their studies as soon as possible.”
Cho was former KU President Hong’s academic advisor when the latter was studying for his Master’s degree. With that connection, and under the guidance of Cho, Hong later devoted himself to the further development of the Research Institute of Korean Studies, where Cho had served as the first director. Former KU President Hong has kept Cho’s letter of resignation until today, ever since it was discovered while Cho’s students were clearing up Cho’s office after he passed away in 1968.
Former President of KU Hong Il-sik recollected: “The letter of resignation reflects my teacher’s resolute determination to leave at any time if necessary to support his students. I vividly remember that on the day before his death, even when his breathing was labored, my teacher insisted that he had to complete the publication of ‘the Korean Cultural History Series.’ He said foreigners visiting Korea must visit Korea University to learn more about the country, and people visiting Korea University must visit the Research Institute of Korean Studies to learn about the true nature of Korea and Korea University. Professor Cho was a person who was concerned about the university and about the health of his field of study right until the moment he closed his eyes forever.”
In addition, the “Collected Papers in Commemoration of the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth”, a compilation of memorial writings by Cho’s family members and students together with presentation and discussion papers presented at the Commemorative Forum for the Centennial of Cho Ji Hoon’s Birth held in October last year at Yeongyang-gun, and material from the Commemorative Lecture and Memorial Symposium held by KU in November and the Commemorative Humanities Festival held by KU on November 13, will be published in February next year.
Moreover, as part of its project to create a park of statues honoring distinguished poets from around the globe, the botanical garden in Kyiv, Ukraine, has been working on the erection of a statue of Cho in commemoration of the centennial of his birth, with the unveiling ceremony scheduled for 2021.