This poem frequently appears in workbooks for Korea’s College Scholastic Ability Test. It means students have to memorize the poem, including its theme and characteristics even by highlighting its words and lines. Due to their college preparation, Korean high school students would be too busy to truly appreciate the poem. They will not have the luxury of time to appreciate rhythms and trailing notes of the poem. Students would have solved problems regarding the poem even though they did not understand what the lines really meant, and thus came to dislike it. When it comes to poems, people are supposed to enjoy from their heart rather than knowledge, but any test is designed to measure knowledge rather than emotion or feelings.
"On my way to hometown" by poet Shin Kyung-lim was released in November 1981, which is exactly 37 years ago this month. What would it have been like "going to his hometown," or "leaving his hometown" 37 years ago? In this poem, an aspiring youth who was born to a poor family is being featured. Youth is the name of people who have dreams. However, this person’s dream has already been aged like sunset. He does not have the luxury of a chance to dream. His home is already aged because no one takes care of it, and his hometown village has been dilapidated. This young man seems to have deeply loved this place even though it has no hope or future. Were it not for his love of the hometown, he would not feel so sad and heartbroken as he is leaving his beloved hometown.
Let’s think where this young man would be living now, 37 years from then. Has he amassed some wealth? Or is he completely exhausted or hopeless, while living in poverty in a cheap urban dormitory? He is still devouring rice and beef soup amid hunger? Reading this poem, I feel all the more lonesome in this deepening fall. I sincerely hope that all wanderers fell less nostalgic in this lonely season of the year.