During the hard-fought Fatherland Liberation War (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took a measure to recall students from the front so that they would resume studying. Among them was Rim Kum Dan, an 18-year-old nurse at a naval unit of the Korean People’s Army, who was ordered to resume studying at the Korean Language Faculty of Kim Il Sung University.
Even in the difficult wartime, the country ensured that the students were provided with living conditions and writing papers and other school things.
Rim made a collection of poems with the writing papers and entitled it “Seed.”
During her university days, she wrote “Song of a nurse,” “Azaleas in Paeksong-ri” and many other poems on it. The collection of her poems is now on display in the Paeksong Revolutionary Museum, the place where Kim Il Sung University was located during the war.
After graduation, she was appointed a writer of the Central Committee of the Writers Union of Korea.
“I wanted to major in poetry which I had learned at the university but, unexpectedly, I was assigned to the juvenile literature department. About seven decades have passed since then,” she recollected with a smile on her face.
She created over 1 000 nursery rhymes, epics and lyrical epics, including “Lovely warbling birds,” “Bright moon,” “When seeds sprout” and “Song of love,” and made public her collections, entitled, “Azaleas in Paeksong-ri” and “Clear sky.”
With her inborn sensitive feelings and strong desire for beauty, she made painstaking efforts to experience actual life with an ambition to be a renowned novelist for children. In her leisure time she made it part of her daily life to go to schools to experience children’s sentiments.
In the course of this, she wrote many nursery rhymes.
A nursery rhyme “What is the thing getting younger along with advancing years” created in 1958 in the form of a puzzle vividly depicted the feelings of children that Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, gets younger with its appearance undergoing a face-lift with each passing day.
“A star and me” (created in 1961) is a short-length nursery rhyme representing the delight of a kindergartener who was highly praised for good manners of salutation to the elders. It spread all over the country as a kindergarten teacher set the poem to music and taught children the song. All the Koreans sang the song in their childhood.
From the first period of her career, she was beloved of people as a promising writer endowed with ardent creative enthusiasm and extraordinary skills.
She did not confine herself to time and place. She would be lost in deep contemplation while cleaning wild greens or washing clothes with her baby piggyback, and burst into the room to write a nursery rhyme on a paper whenever she had a good idea while washing rice.
The country made sure that exclusive offices for writers were built wonderfully in a picturesque place on the west coast. The office was a home for her to engage in creation with no worries.
She created works portraying the noble traits of the peerlessly great men Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and about the Workers’ Party of Korea and the country, the advantages of socialist system, and dealing with the life of various realms, including education in revolutionary traditions, patriotism, and others that help schoolchildren acquire ample knowledge, noble morality and strong physique.
“Juvenile literature is not merely dedicated for children’s enjoyment. It is an undertaking to bring up the future of the country. Writers of children’s stories are duty bound to instil in children pure conscience and noble spiritual world of true persons in our era, help them aspire to the most beautiful things,” said Rim.
Not a few of her works have been compiled in the textbooks of “Mother Tongue” and “Music” at kindergartens and primary and junior middle schools.
“It is easier said than done for a woman to write many works. This is unthinkable apart from her deep thoughts and speculation and burning zeal for creation. None of her works were created simply by depicting juvenile mind or relying on abstracted data on life at her desk. She depicted all forms of works, large and small, on the basis of her own experiences or the facts she had been well aware of. This means that she had toured all parts of the country and read all books off the press,” said Rim’s colleague Mun Jae Hong, an 80-year-old man.
The country accorded her high treatment. She was awarded Kim Il Sung Prize in 1989, and attended many important events as a delegate, including the national meeting of mothers, celebrations of the 45th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the national conference of war veterans. She, at the age of 88, was also invited as a special delegate to the Eighth Congress of the WPK held in 2021.
When she was asked how she could be in the mind of a child despite her advanced years, she replied: I am a mother with children and they are my teacher. I still spend my remaining years happily in juvenile mind as their bosom friend.
Her long, autobiographical note “Seed and Fruit” was published not long ago, in which she wrote:
“Though I was born in a remote mountain village in the northern tip of the country, I have become a writer of children’s stories well known throughout the country. This is not because I am gifted with a talent but because I have given full play to my creative ability and inexhaustible energy, inspired by children growing up happily in the country which puts them forward as its ‘king’ and brings all blessings to them.
The ‘seed’ sprouted in the dark clouds of the war has grown into a giant tree in the embrace of the socialist system and produced a ‘large fragrant fruit’”.