Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Hiroshima-Nagasaki Feature—Issue 56, August 2015)

Don Mee Choi
Womb 8691945

My turn to state an equation: colonization = “thingification.”

—Aimé Césaire1

The father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was also a translator of the Bhagavad Gita. “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” is his translation, a line he recalled from the Gita as he observed the first atomic bomb testing on July 16, 1945, in Trinity, New Mexico.2 The Manhattan Project, a massive translation project he successfully led, gave birth to Little Boy, Fat Man, and others. Oppenheimer’s translation equation: q = quantum. q is q. Enriched uranium and plutonium filled the bellies of Little Boy and Fat Man. I will state the obvious: Oppenheimer was a translator for US Empire. I need to state the obvious because the obvious is what is often omitted and erased by the empire’s memory making machine. For instance, the Korean War (1950–53) is often referred to as “the Forgotten War”—the war in which 4 million were killed (mostly civilians), the war my parents survived and did not forget. Their memory formed the lining of the womb in which I was conceived. As I grew, I became a translator, a translator against US Empire. My translation equation: ㅋ= q. Korean Letterㅋsounds like letter q in English. So in my translation of Kim Hyesoon’s “I’m Ok, I’m Pig,” ㅋ is q, the squeals of pigs that get dismembered or buried alive. Enriched squeals:

qqqq  naturally it’s Pig screaming when its owner goes to jail and piss and shit rises up to Pig’s knees3

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 of 1945 matters to us all, regardless of when and where we were born. From Daniel Borzutzky’s translation and introduction to Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks4:


My God is a little boy My God is a fat man


the plains of Nagasaki and Hiroshima pass / before the Chilean sky

Borzutzky: “The history of atrocity is not a series of separate events here. Rather, to be alive is to experience all the obliterations at once.”

US Empire has always been a killing machine within and without, extraordinarily speaking, particularly since 1945, pursuing modern military warfare, economic warfare, NAFTA-ing, wallstreeting, renditioning, torturing, napalming, drone-ing, TPP-ing, etc. Think Borzutzky. It has bombed over thirty countries since 1945. Think Zurita. William Blum observes: “The United States is an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become a target are: 1. It poses a sufficient obstacle to the desires of the American Empire; 2. It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.”5 During the Korean War, B-29 bombers dropped “dummy A-bombs or heavy TNT bombs” over North Korea. These were Hiroshima and Nagasaki simulated bombing runs. From below, it was impossible to tell whether these dummy A-bombs were real or not.6 O, think.

Dummies drop from the sky. A farce is a farce, B-29s never land.7

North Korea was already scorched and leveled by incendiary bombs, leaving behind “a low, wide mound of violet ashes.”8 Obviousness obliterated.

Ōe Kenzaburō’s Hiroshima Notes:

Referring to the war in Korea, which at the time happened to be at a standstill, the U.P. bureau chief asked the blind A-bomb victim, ‘I suppose we could end the war if we dropped two or three atomic bombs on Korea; as an A-bomb victim, what’s your opinion?’9

My opinion: Womb 8691945. We were all conceived in the warring womb, our memory lining radiated. We were all fed from the same placenta, empire’s placenta. We all need to be translators against the empire. Our code names: Anti-Little Boy, Anti-Fat Man, Anti-colonial, Anti-dictatorship, Anti-austerity, Black Lives Matter, and others.

Also my opinion: 8691945 of Korea. We had our own Little Boy and Fat Man in South Korea. Dummies too. An equation for rapid neocolonization = Generals→ Dictators→ Presidents. Many protested, many massacred, many tortured, many qqqq.

The estimates of Koreans forcibly mobilized to Japan during the colonial rule (1910–1945) as laborers, as soldiers, including women who were forced to serve as military sex slaves, vary from 1,130,000 to 7,000,000. George Katsiaficas:

The massive trafficking meant that thousands of victims annihilated by U.S. nuclear weapons at the end of the war were Koreans, including about one in seven at Hiroshima—about 20,000 out of 140,000 who perished that day—and thousands more at Nagasaki.10

And ninety percent of 43,000 survivors who returned to Korea died because there was no medical treatment for them. And those who could not hide their scars were taken for lepers.11 I still remember children and grown-ups going from house to house in the late afternoons, begging for leftovers. I was warned of their missing fingers and toes, missing eyebrows, missing noses. Little Boy and Fat Man, you shitheads, have you ever begged? Missing empire. O, I wish and wish.

Hapcheon County in South Gyeongsang Province of South Korea is where many survivors returned to and is thus referred to as the “Hiroshima of Korea.” According to Wikipedia, “famous people born in the county include former South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan.” Think 8691945 of Korea. Chun is the implosive version of his predecessor, President Park Chung Hee, also famous. Both famously famous. Famous Little Boy of Korea, in pursuit of rapid industrialization, signed a normalization treaty with Japan in 1965 for a grant of $300 million, $200 million in loans, and $300 million in private investment.12 Famous Fat Man of Korea did no better; he was responsible for the brutal suppression of the 1980 Kwangju pro-democratic uprising. The treaty signed during the famous era complicated the possibility of any war-related claims against Japan. The remaining 2,600 A-bomb survivors are still seeking apology and compensation from Japan.13 Another fact about Hapchoen included in the Wikipedia entry is that there is a theme park where “people can play a survival game under an imaginative war state.”14 Let me offer you a counter-fact: no imagination is required, for the two Koreas, divided 70 years ago by the two superpowers of the Cold War, are technically still at war. Only the temporary ceasefire agreement was signed in July 1953, and the signing of the peace treaty that was promised three months later never materialized. As WOMENCROSSDMZ points out, “over 60 years later, we’re still waiting.”15

One more fact I want to indulge in is that there are over 80,000 wooden printing blocks known as Tripitaka Koreana, housed at the Temple of Haeinsa in the mountains of Hapcheon County. The woodblocks are exquisite carvings of texts in Chinese characters, and are considered to be the most complete and accurate version of the Buddhist scriptures. These 80,000+ woodblocks represent the “84,000 agonies that humans suffer from during their lifetime.”16 The wooden print blocks were first carved in the 11th Century as an act of divine intervention, to seek Buddha’s mercy against the Mongol invasions. That divine act was an act of translation. On a linguistic level, it involved the transcribing of Buddhist Sanskrit texts into Chinese, and politically, divinely, it was resistance against the invasions. Hence, the carving of the woodblocks was an act of anti-imperialist translation. Thus I am compelled to give one more equation: a = agonies.

a = qqqq

a is infinite like “the plains of Nagasaki and Hiroshima”

a is for alive, “to experience all the obliterations at once”

a is for anti-colonial

a is for divine intervention

a is made in Womb 8691945


1Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 42.
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2James A. Hijiya, “The Gita of Robert Oppenheimer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 144 (2000): 123.
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3Kim Hyesoon, Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, trans. Don Mee Choi (Notre Dame: Action Books, 2014), 75.
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4Raúl Zurita, The Country of Planks, trans. Daniel Borzutzky (Notre Dame: Action Books, 2015),10, 48-49.
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5William Blum, “United States bombing of other countries.”
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6Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (New York: Norton, 1997), 293.
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7Don Mee Choi, “From Noon—To All Surviving Butterflies,” in The Morning News is Exciting (Notre Dame, Action Books, 2010), 65.
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8Bruce Cumings, “Nuclear Threats Against North Korea: Consequences of the ‘forgotten’ war,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
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9Ōe Kenzaburō, Hiroshima Notes, trans. David L. Swain and Toshi Yonezawa (London: Marion Boyars Publishers, 1981), 72.
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10George Katsiaficas, Asia’s Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century (Oakland: PM Press, 2012), 53.
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11 Andreas Hippin, “The End of Silence: Korea’s A-bomb victims seek redress,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (2005).
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12Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, 320-321.
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13Akira Nakano, “S. Korean A-bomb suvivors to sue Seoul over Japanese compensation,” The Asahi Shimbun, August 07, 2013.
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14Hapcheon County.”
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152015 Women’s Walk for Peace in Korea.”
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16Hapcheon: home to Mother Nature, time-honored tradition.”
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