APRIL POETRY: "Korean War" by Lauren Kim

Curated as part of the Youth Poetry Folio for National Poetry Month
March 19, 2019

This April, to recognize and honor National Poetry Month, we curated a folio of poems by 10 Asian American high school students. This page features Lauren Kim's "Korean War." We invite you to take a moment to read the other nine poems in this collection here.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor

Korean War

Grandpa knew a recruit who
was just 17 because
he had parents with
power and the desire for
a decorated son

He was young and weak, Grandpa says,
It’s no surprise that he got sick

After three weeks
the boy returned with sallow
cheeks and thin ankles
but bright eyes, Grandpa tells me.
Smallpox, the boy whispered
smiling with his
dried lips, I conquered it.

A month later,
Grandpa and the boy would fight
in the Battle of Osan
from which Grandpa says
the boy’s corpse would return,
five crusted bullet holes in his back.

His parents mourned for
a year, Grandpa says, before
sending in their second son.


About this Poem:
“Korean War” is based on a series of stories my grandfather used to tell me about his experience as a recruit during the Korean War. The poem explores the pain and grief that war often brings to people as well as issues of toxic masculinity.


This piece was published as part of the April Youth Poetry Folio. To see other works from the folio, please visit the table of contents here.


Lauren Kim

Lauren Kim is a junior at The Dalton School in Manhattan. She is second generation Korean American and is the managing editor of her school’s literary magazine. Lauren wrote her first poem when she was 7 years old and has been interested in creative writing ever since. Lauren's work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (Gold Key), Hollins University, and Live Poets Society of New Jersey. Besides creative writing, Lauren fences competitively and plays the flute.