Ko Un and Lee Shang-Wha
Ko Un and me at UCLA
Ko Un at the home of Hyon Chough
In April of 2010 I had the opportunity to host the noted Korean poet Ko Un and his wife Lee Shang-Wha. After a reading at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, the couple flew to Los Angeles, where I picked them up on April 21st at the Los Angeles International Airport and drove them to the JJ Grand Hotel in the vast area of the city we call Koreatown. In part because Ko does not speak English, and the hotel contains a fine Korea restaurant, I thought it would be more comfortable for them to stay in that part of the city, which is also not terribly far from our house.
Soon Howard joined me and, together, we drove them to the University of California, Los Angeles, where I had arranged a reading in the Korean Department. The faculty, in turn, had planned a pleasant lunch at the Faculty Club. The professors and staff, perhaps all in a little awe of Ko Un, were somewhat uncomfortably quiet, but Howard and I peppered Ko with questions, and finally the faculty began to speak up.
Los Angeles, March 12, 2010