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  Arts & Living
Irish Priest Dovoted to Translating Korean Literature
Irish Scholar Authors New Book “My Korea: 40 Years without a Horsehair Hat”
Swedish, Irish Envoys to Host Book Presentation Event
Prof. Kevin O’Rourke

Swedish Ambassador to Seoul Lars Danielsson and Irish Ambassador to Seoul Aingeal O’Donoghue will co-host the 33rd meeting with the author and translator Prof. Kevin O’Rourke for the presentation of the professor’s new book “My Korea: 40 Years without a Horsehair Hat,” at the residence of the Irish envoy in Seoul’s Seonbuk-dong on Feb. 26 (Wednesday), 2014, the Irish Embassy in Seoul announced in a recent news release.

The book presentation ceremony of Prof. O’Rourke of Kyunghee University’s English Language and Literature Department will be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the day.

It will be officially hosted by Seoul Literary Society, a literature group formed in 2006 by foreign envoys in Seoul. Currently, the Swedish envoy serves as its president.

The prolific author and translator’s most recent book, “My Korea: 40 Years without a Horsehair Hat,” provides readers with a deep insight into both contemporary and traditional Korean culture.

After the presentation by Prof. O’Rourke, there will be a question and answer session about his literature.

Who Is Prof. Kevin O’Rourke?

Kevin O’Rourke, professor emeritus of the Department of English Language & Literature at Kyunghee University in Seoul, is an Irish priest who has served in South Korea since 1964.

He is one of the most eminent scholars of Korean literature in both Ireland and Europe. He has published a number of translations of Korean fiction and poetry into English language.

Kevin O’Rourke became the first foreign national to receive a PhD in Korean literature from a Korean university. He earned his doctoral degree in literature from Yonsei University in 1984. His dissertation was on the influence of English poetry on the Korean poetry of the 1920s.

It was in 1964 that the Catholic priest set his foot on the Korean soil as a member of Missionary Society of St. Columban. He was 24 years old back then.

While serving as priest in the nation he began to learn the local Korean language at Yonsei University after four years of his arrival in the nation. He received a master’s degree in literature from Yonsie.

Over decades of his stay in the nation the Irish poet has authored a number of literary volumes. Also he translated renowned local literary works into English.

They include Tilting the Jar, Spilling the Moon (Poems from Goryeo, Joseon and Contemporary Korea); Poems of a Wanderer (Selected Poems of So Chongju); Mirrored Minds, a Thousand Years of Korean Verse (Anthology of Classical and Modern Korean Poetry); Looking for the Cow, a Comprehensive Anthology of Modern Korean Poems; The Book of Korean Poetry (Poems of Silla and Goryo), as well as the Square, a novel by Choi In-hun and Our Twisted Hero, a novel by Yi Mun-yol.

Decades of his career have been spent translating works of Korean literature, both classical and contemporary, into English. He won the Korean National Literature Prize in 1989 for his translations of Korean poetry. He also received a commendation from the Poetry Society of England

His most recent book “My Korea: 40 Years without a Horsehair Hat” is part memoir and part miscellany dealing with the traditional and contemporary Korean culture through a series of essays, stories, anecdotes, and poems.

Given Kevin’s passion for Korean literature and poetry, this book fittingly uses a rich trove of poems and stories to delve into philosophical and ideological underpinnings of Korean history and culture, as well as giving a fascinating window on Korea of the 1960s through the eyes of a new arrival to these shores.

His book tells the readers, particularly foreigners, all they need to know about their life in South Korea. Newcomers in the nation can gain insights into their daily activities in Korea including how to deal with people, how to use honorific language, how to handle name business cards, hot to be comfortable with social ranking.

His volume, with an in-depth introduction to traditional and contemporary culture of Korea, can be very useful in preventing newly arrived foreigners from committing cultural faux pas.



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