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Sijo Masters in Translation

Korean Sijo by Chin-ok

(dates unknown)

Chin-ok was a kisaeng in Choson (Korea). That is all that is known about her.

Korean kisaeng were courtesans who entertained court officials and others of high rank. Though frequently of lower birth, these women were often highly intelligent, trained in conversation, dancing, painting, and literature. Profiting from the less-inhibited nature of their calling, kisaeng felt free to express personal emotions in their writing. Their language often included fresh imagery, humorous similes and thinly veiled, risque metaphors. In this sijo, her only one to come down to us, Chin-ok uses "metal" and "bellows" as sexual innuendoes to comment on the prowess of a potential lover.

They told me it was metal,
but I didn't believe a word.
But now I find it's iron
of the strongest, finest kind.
Ah! Here is my little bellows,
I think I'll melt it down.

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