Commentary: Poetry & Economics:

An Essay on Poetry and Economics in Commemoration of
Winning the Award of New Literary Writer

By Dr. Yang-Taek Lim

Dean and Professor, Economics and Finance College

Hanyang University, Korea


I was very happy to hear from the president, Mr. Kim Yoon-Ho, on November 1, 2006, that my poems, including Prayer on the Top of the Baekdu Mountai,’ won the 14th Award of New Literary Writer, which was opened by the Association of Baekdusan Literary Writers and its quarterly Baekdu Mountain Literature, which made my debut to the commonwealth of Korean writers.


Indeed, I can't believe that an old economist (with age 59) has become a poet, although I am proud of this nonetheless. In fact, because of my shyness, I have published my English poems on the US BWW Society ( rather than in Korea. Regarding the Award, I took courage to send my favorite poems by email, in response to the invitation from the Association and the quarterly Literature, to join in the prize contest for poems, and I had the unexpected honor of winning the prize.


Receiving the "honor that probably never I can have twice in lifetime," as the president Kim Yoon-Ho said, I missed my late parents and, especially, my uncle. In my childhood, my uncle, who was a famous poet in the era before and after the liberation of Korea, often recited poems for me, with great love on his nephew. I sometimes think that his love had effects on the creation of my poetic sentiment.


In retrospect, in my home town, there was so beautiful seashore with clean and bright shells scraps, small and glossy stones, peacefully laughing wavelets, blue waters, and many fishing boats. This town was surrounded by several connected mountains and hills like a folding screen. There I had been grown up with my grandparents who were stern but full of affection for their first grandson. However, apart from me, my parents lived in the city for my father’s political activity. So, I had been very lonely as if I was a ‘quasi-orphan.’ When I missed my parents, I went to the seashore, watching dim lights of downtown across the sea, looking up the-likely-to be falling starts in the dark sky.


I have loved writings rather than words, above all, poems. When I read poems, I often feel that a poem is a heavenly language 'stolen' by a human being. Mostly, the poets using such beautiful language died young (ex: Yoon Dong-Ju, Kim So-Wol, etc.). My uncle also died with many unpublished poems when he was only 33 years old. I always have believed that a poet, who tells the heaven's mind in human language, would experience internal conflicts rooted in his or her heart and external hardships due to some economic reasons for daily life. Therefore, I had a great fear of becoming a poet when I was young, because I knew, by intuition, the wind in my mind that I could not bear. To ignore this possibility willfully, I have devoted myself to the logic and metric thinking as an economic scholar for more than 30 years.


However, I could not realize that the poetic mind is not created by a human’s efforts but given by the heaven until I became about sixty. As the sun, moon and stars exist in the heaven, we have reason, motion and nostalgic mind. Difference among humans means that they have different reasons, motions and objects of nostalgia, I believe.


My 'nostalgia' includes not only a nostalgic sweetness of the figures I lost in the past but also the ardent wish for 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number', an idea that we will have to seek for in the future. In other words, it is an eager desire for a human society full of human truth and sympathy where all humans live under cooperation and happiness.


Although I belong to the mainstream community of economists, I am not credulous about the market function because the market governed by the 'law of jungle' (the survival of the fittest) is cruel. I prefer a 'human capitalism.' In reflection of this mind, I wrote my doctoral thesis titled 'Optimal Economic Growth and Social Security' in 1978, which proposed a self-perpetuating optimal economic growth model for the coexistence between continued economic growth and social security system and for dynamic stability in an attempt to solve the problem of mass poverty. In line with such a thought, I have written about the effects of human capital on economic development (growth). Also, I have emphasized the importance of education creating human capital in my recent research: "Optimal Economic Growth with Human Capital".


Now, I believe 'human capitalism' is based on the Dangun's thought that human is heaven and vice versa. It is the picture of human society that God wants. However, my 'nostalgia' needs much mental culture and many lessons because it has not been sublimed into a universal value of human beings. This limit, I believe, comes from my insufficient devotion to God. In other words, I have not had the awareness that God's love itself is an integral of the universal value of human beings and I have not sublimed and internalized the awareness into the 'nostalgia.'


Based on my barren feeling that I have not reached the level of such understanding, my ‘nostalgia’ is expressed mostly as 'our nostalgia' for our nation and for our people. A typical example is my favorite poem 'Prayer on the Top of Baekdu Mountain.' In the same context is the poem 'Prayer in the Jiri Mountain' in which I cried loudly for curing the bitter pain of the mountain where the left and the right fought hard each other and for taking the leadership in the upcoming era of the Asia and Pacific Rim. Furthermore, the poem 'Climbing the Tai Mountain' which I created about the peace settlement in the Northeast Asia when I climbed the mountain with some of my Chinese friends is in the same context as the two poems.


I am not sure how much absolute and relative time the heaven will give me. I am going to rearrange and update all of my papers and books I have written as an economist and establish an economic view of the 'greatest happiness of the greatest number.' Then, I will deliver 'our nostalgia' for the human society full of everyone's happiness, as a cuckoo sings, with the setting of the mountains and rivers harboring the sorrow of Korean history. And, I will sing my thankfulness to God for giving me a life, great parents, lovely wife, son and daughters, and a happiness of being able to teach students for all my life.


Thank you very much.


Poet Lim Yang-Taek

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