Mount Halla – Lee, San-ha

An Epic

Mount Halla


This poem is dedicated
To all the revolutionary heroes who sacrificed their lives
For the liberation of our people and the reunification of our motherland

On the land you cannot cross without the cry of biting off your tongue
On the mountain you cannot climb without the rage of cutting off your toes
On Mount Baekdu
On Mount Jiri
On Mount Mudeung
And in every corner of blood-stained Korea



In the blistering hot summer of 1945
After eighty bitter years had passed
Since the US had chosen Chosun as a naval foothold
During that summer, with ‘bread’ in one hand and wearing the mask of a ‘liberation army,’
Armed to their toenails, the US Imperialists swaggered ashore
And cut in two
The sky, the green mountains and rivers of innocent Choson.
Now, another 40 long years have passed
Yet nothing in this colonized country, an American ‘jail without bars,’
Has changed, except the Japanese Colonial Government Office is now the US Embassy.
The 120-year history of US Imperialist invasion
The blood-stained history of national liberation ~
How can we ever forget
This somber history’s wheels stained with the blood we shed
Breaking through the chains of oppression with our teeth?
If we are not grass leaves that blow in the wind
If we are not their slaves
How can we just look on?



Who can forget
This country is just another state of America?
Who can forget all those nights filled with moans
Those days when we were caged like animals in their barracks?
Who tells us to forget?
From March 3rd of 1948, in this ‘Second Moscow,’
Every night we buried the blood of our fallen comrades
Buried their flesh
Buried their bones.
Frozen Mount Halla covered with snow
Those unknown warriors who bled to death
Who can forget?
The endless red trails from their blood
Who is forcing us to forget?

Losing their decomposed toes from frostbite
On those frozen nights when their female comrades’ periods froze,
In the torture and bitter cold
They passed.
Limping on bullet-riddled legs
Hanging onto their comrades’ shoulders
On the way back to the base camp
On the way back to the base camp
They collapsed in the end and passed.
Have they gone where they were meant to go?
On the land you cannot cross without the cry of biting off your tongue
On the mountain you cannot climb without the rage of cutting off your toes
The revolutionaries of Jeju Island fell.
While trying to cut up the limbs of the US Imperialists
While trying to set fire to their hearts
But before they cut up all their limbs
But before they set fire to all their hearts
They were blown into thin air like a handful of bloody ash.

Don’t be sad over our deaths
As we died fighting with the enemies.
Put the flag over our bodies
The people’s flag
Under which we have sworn to be buried.



This genocidal forest I haven’t walked through in over thirty years
Has not changed a bit.
White snow covers every ridge of the mountain like ashes
Birds chirp on the branches of trees as if exchanging codes
Far in the ocean a ship with people on board
And another loaded with stone sail on.
The tree-barks and the grassroots we dug from the ground and chewed
As we held in our starving bellies
This genocidal forest
Where every last fallen leaf reeks of burning gasoline
Is still filled with the sound of gunfire.

Whatever was moving was our enemy
And yet it was also their enemy.
While we made sure to aim before we shot
They shot without looking
So began the genocide.

On that day
Up in the sky US reconnaissance planes dropped leaflets warning of mass murder.
In the ocean US naval ships sent their warning blasts
And on the land drunken mounted brigades wielding swords and guns
Patrolled the execution sites.
The Northwest Youth Alliance ~ the Korean KKK ~ high on opium
Having declared Geumak-li of Hamrim a village of communist sympathizers
Dragged out eighty middle-schoolers to the fields of Geumak
And shot them dead and buried their bodies at sea.
Then off they went to Jeongbang Waterfall and Cheonjiyeon Waterfall
Stripped down the young wives and daughters of Partisan rebels
Tied them to trees and rocks and used them as targets for bayonet practice.
In the end
They cut off their breasts and threw them into the waterfalls
On that day when
In the pine forest near Sarabong Bongsudae, aglow with the setting sun
Far-right mobs of the Northwest Alliance shouted God’s name
As they raped girls as pure as potato flowers and buried them alive.
And in the interrogation room of Seoguipo
They hammered nails under the Partisans’ fingernails and toenails
And ripped out their tongues with monkey wrenches.

On that very day
In the people’s square of Gwandeokjeong
They displayed quartered bodies
And cut-off heads
And arms
And legs
And torsos
Piece by piece on electric poles.
Poking the corpses with Japanese swords, the Pro-Americans yelled
At the village people who were dragged out and filled up the square,
“These are Reds!”
“This is the end of the Reds!”

The bodies were so ripped apart
The village people could only silently guess
That’s Lee Deok-gu
That’s Kim Yoon-min
That’s Kim Byeong-nam
That’s Nam Jin
That’s Park Nam-hae….
They neither wailed nor sobbed.

One can sob only for a human being.
These weren’t human beings.
These weren’t even dead human beings.
They were merely pieces of meat hung up in a butcher shop.
If a bullet had pierced the heart
That would have been a blessed death.

A sand storm blowing up from the beach
Shook Mount Halla to madness.

“All American troops out now!”
“Let’s overthrow Lee Seung-man’s gang of traitors!”
“Long live reunification!”
“Long live Jeju Partisans!”

The bloody sun was setting over the People’s Square.
The mountain became naked again
And into those empty woods they never returned.
Some flew by alive
Others flew by dead
In the end all the living things flew by and vanished.
This brutal winter forest where you find no shelter to hide your body
This genocidal forest where only the last few miraculously survived
Who will not remember that day?


Let’s pay them back.
Ah – blood-stained island of Jeju, of April Third
Where even today yellow canola flowers sleep bearing blades
Who would dare cut off
These azalea flowers that have bloomed from our hearts?
Let’s pay them back.
Let’s stab the flesh of greasy landlords and capitalists with bamboo spears.
And let’s return
The laborers’ fingers that got cut off by factory machines
The evictees’ arms and legs that got hacked by forklifts
The deep rooted rancor of the farmers who plowed their lands to be poisoned by pesticides.
And let’s rip to shreds those enemies
Those bloody enemies who trampled upon
Kwangju in May
And give those shreds to
The descendants of ‘our motherland America’.

US imperialists
Listen thus carefully to what I say.
Our mailboxes are red
Not because the people’s thoughts are stained by commies
But because of you, Yankees.
The people on our Korean peninsula shed red blood
Because of you.
Now be silent.
You, members of a ‘blood alliance’
While you are alive with both eyes open
We cannot fall asleep,
On the edges of your swords
We will never fall asleep.

On this liberated land where nobody can fall asleep
The fingers that were cut off
Are still alive and moving
With red blood inside.

Bright red blood glows
In the hearts that drank pesticides.
With the Fire of liberation
With Fire of our motherland’s reunification
Until the gaunt hands of ragged and hungry workers and peasants
Have built forests of revolution
Let’s cut up the limbs of those evil US imperialists
And let’s strike like lightning
The hearts of those Pro-American traitors!
Let’s avenge our comrades with the dead bodies of our enemies!
Even after a thousand years
Let us never forgive
Or forget!


Mount Halla on Jeju, island that still does not sleep
All those honeymoon spots on this beautiful island
Are places of genocide that we must remember.
The yellow canola flowers there still bloom beautifully.
But all those flowers sleep bearing blades.







Lee, San-ha 1987, when he was active in the propaganda of Democratization Movement Youth Union, Lee San-hye announced the epic poem , which reveals the genocide and truth of ‘Jeju 4 · 3



Translatde by Og Lim with Yu jin Ko


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