This study aims to systematize Korean modern poems based on native ecological imagination from the early 20th century to the mid-1980s. In the 1990s, Western eco-poems began to be introduced, while lots of domestic poets produced eco-minded poetry. Those poems covered here, therefore, may act as the models of Korean native eco-poems reflecting Korea’s unique history and cultural tradition.
As a result, the ecological imagination of Korean modern poems have three characteristics: 1) ecological responses to the destruction of human dignity, 2) ecological responses to the destruction of natural environment, and 3) ecotopia orientation to overcome reality.
As far as ecological imagination goes, Korean poems have consistently responded to the issue of ecological unbalance through the Japanese colonial days and the contemporary age. This was a natural social reaction to the Japanese imperial rule, the Korean War, and the issue of violent political regimes.
The issue of natural destruction by way of civilization came to stand out especially in the full-fledged industrialization after the Korean War. Various voices of criticism were produced from urban development to atomic weaponry. This line became the general type of eco-poetry from the 1990s on.
The inclination to an ecotopia or an ecological utopia is the matter of consciousness to get over the reality of modernism. This runs in Korean poetry by following the naturalistic philosophy of Oriental traditional culture. The future looks of Korean eco-poems will be critical to civilization and ecotopia-inclined.
If the matter of ecologism is essentially practical and scientific, it may be pointed out that Korean eco-poems hardly exist to meet the specificity of being strictly scientific and realistic. How to combine the natural science of ecology and the ecological imagination of poetry is up to the talent of poets and the participation of readers.