Ko Un leading contender for Nobel Prize for Lit: AP

Korean poet Ko Un is one of the favorites to take home the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, reports AP:

With European novelists dominating recent Nobel literature awards, experts are guessing the Swedish Academy will look farther afield when it announces the 2010 winner on Thursday.

South Korean poet Ko Un and Syria’s Adonis are generating the most buzz among Swedish Nobel watchers, while betting agencies are giving lower odds to Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya and American novelist Cormac McCarthy.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually read Ngugi was Thiong’o.

Literature expert Maria Schottenius at Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, who correctly predicted last year’s winner Herta Mueller of Germany, said she believes it will be Ko or Adonis this year, with songwriter Bob Dylan as an outsider.

Ko is “the kind of person who is trying to unite his divided country with poetry and he writes about everything he encounters, all the people, stones, plants and animals,” she said.

Swedish national broadcaster SVT also pointed to Ko and Adonis as potential winners, with Algeria’s Assia Djebar and Canadian writer Alice Munro among its other top candidates.

In point of fact, Ko trying to unite his divided country with more than poetry. He’s trying to unite the language, too, as chairman of an inter-Korean commission to draw up a united dictionary, a project now being threatened by budget cuts.

If Ko wins, he will be the second Korean to win a Nobel Prize. It will also make Brother Anthony a happy man.

  • http://www.ktlit.com ccmontgom

    If you’re interested in watching this as it develops.. the award will be given tonight at about 8:39 Seoul time.

    I’ve embedded the live-video widget over on KTLIT:http://www.ktlit.com/?p=2226

  • http://www.ktlit.com ccmontgom

    LOL.. I stink at typing AND html… at 8:30 at KTLIT

  • YBT199

    Bob Dylan? Why on earth is there a musician on the Nobel’s list for consideration, let alone a whining, tuneless pop singer?

    Did he discover a new fundamental particle after he lost his nerve and became a Christian?

  • cmm

    Well, I hope they get it, because apparently Team Korea already been slighted this year. My Russian coworker mentioned in conversation that two Russians were selected for the Nobel in Physics for their work in graphene, and he was educated very quickly that a Korean scientist did the same work but was very unfairly ignored in the selection. Russian coworker then decided not to talk about it to anyone again (except me, because I’m cool).

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Uhmm, YBT199, we’re talking about the NP for Literature, not the science ones.

    Dylan shouldda got one long ago, for “Visions of Johanna” if not “It’s Alright Ma” (my personal fav) — if not his entire catalog, at least up through “High Water”…. minus the horrible “Under the Red Sky” of course.

    As for the infamous Born-Again Christian thang — well, cocaine-recovery and high-profile divorce from the-love-of-his-life will drive a man to strange places indeed. The 3 albums we got out of that still sound pretty damn good, gotta say…

  • JG29A

    Awarding a prize for poetry that you can’t read in the original is a sick joke.

    Those poems absolutely suck in English, and anyone who says they don’t is attending to something other than poetry.

  • http://www.ktlit.com ccmontgom

    Oh well..

    Maybe next year….

    *Shakes fist at Peruvian “literary” establishment!

  • seouldout

    …the award will be given tonight at about 8:39 Seoul time.

    I wonder whether the fireworks tubes at Namsan are loaded, primed and ready.

  • seouldout

    Better luck next year.

  • slim

    #6 has a point. I’ve never been impressed by translated Ko Un and my Korean level wouldn’t really qualify me as a judge of quality poetry.

    Anyone have a good take on the merit of Korea’s perennial campaign to get Ko a Nobel?

  • http://www.ktlit.com ccmontgom

    To be honest?

    I don’t think he’s the guy, he’s just the guy they’ve been pushing.

    JG29A’s point is a good one – it is wicked hard to translate poetry, as compared to fiction, since so much more of poetry is related to specific language and tactics (susurrus, alliteration) that are very hard to reproduce in different languages and cultures.

    Ko Un is loved for the reasons Marmot mentioned in his original post, some of which are completely extraneous to his poetry.

    I’d go Park Wan-suh, Hwang Sun-won, or even a younger writer like Kim Young-ha (far down the line), for legit “translatable” candidates..

  • PineForest

    YES Bob Dylan. He has long been recognized as a poet of the highest calibre.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    “Oddly enough, Iโ€™ve actually read Ngugi was Thiongโ€™o.”

    Why would we think that is odd? Now, some of your peers might disagree; but to me “odd” is wanting to receive an phony award given to Yasser Arafat…

  • http://orientem.blogspot.com/ The Western Confucian

    Peruvian libertarian Mario Vargas Llosa pulled won, the first man of the right to win in living memory. He once punched out Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One wonders if these are the only two Nobel laureates to have engaged in a fistfight.

  • PineForest

    I wanna say, I am sure that Korea is politically pushing SO hard, and trying SO hard to bribe, bully, cajole, or beg their way to a Nobel, that when it finally happens, I’m not gonna be able to take it seriously at all. Yes, I know Kim Dae Jung got one.. case in point.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936


    But, do you have evidence that anything like the above was in effect (particularly the more sully accusations of “bribe,” and “bully”) for the Ko Un consideration?

  • cm

    I’ll have to sort of agree with #15. Nobel Prize has lost its lusture. Not just about Korea, but the way whole thing is selected, and all the back room dealings that must go on behind the scenes.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Nobel Prize has lost its lusture.

    Ever since Obama got it for “hope?”


  • JG29A


    Nope, pretty much from the beginning. It ought to be called the Nobel Sign a Treaty Prize, because it’s been given to lots of leaders who have consigned millions to starvation, slavery, and genocide, by being some combination of pussy and realist power broker. Sometimes it rewards active sacrifice for human rights, but its central purpose really only involves avoiding war in the short-term.

  • tinyflowers

    No. Ever since Al Gore got one as a consolation prize.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    No, ever since DJ bought one.

  • tinyflowers

    At least we all agree it’s a complete joke at this point.

  • cmm

    I sometimes ponder which of the four–Kim , Arafat, Gore, or Obama–were the biggest jokes. Still no answer.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    IMO, DJ and Arafat are tied for the lead.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Nope. Obama’s the leading ridiculous choice, followed by Al Gore. Both Arafat and Kim appeared to have done something worthy. Arafat’s was the most outrageous, based on his bloodsoaked, duplicitous, and mendacious history.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    “appeared”, while actively subverting the integrity of the process and the award. Neither Obama nor Gorse did that; they just demonstrate the extent to which both process and award have been devalued by episodes like those of Arafat and Kim. I think you’re letting your understandable political views color your historical judgment.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I’m not convinced the payment to North Korea was for the purpose of subverting the Nobel Peace Prize selection. Couldn’t it simply have been made in order to secure participation by North Korea?

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    I agree that there was more than one purpose in paying protection money to the NORKS, but one of them certainly was to put DJ in the Nobel race by doing so

  • http://www.ktlit.com ccmontgom


    I’m being stupid to miss this opportunity. If you do care anything about Korean literature, please take a short quiz by one of my colleagues at Dongguk. You do not have to have read any Korean literature to answer it:

  • cmm

    Iโ€™m not convinced the payment to North Korea was for the purpose of subverting the Nobel Peace Prize selection. Couldnโ€™t it simply have been made in order to secure participation by North Korea?

    Does it matter? That anything Kim “accomplished” was actually simply purchased and presented otherwise invalidates what Kim did (mostly he was just pissing in the wind, it turns out), particularly if Kim knew about the payment. I find it hard to believe he was ignorant of the terms required to secure the meeting.

  • SomeguyinKorea


    So has Leonard Cohen (maybe more so since he used to be a literature professor), but I don’t necessarily think he should get a Nobel Prize in literature. Frankly, if Bob Dylan should ever get a Nobel Prize, it should be a the one for peace…but that one tends to be related to current events. The times have changed. The Vietnam War ended years ago.


    I know of one case where a person won the Peace Prize because she campaigned for it while the one most involved in the issue was ignored.