Kim Guem-won was born in Wonju in 1817 and she was an iconic writer of the time who represented ‘Literature of Female Writer’.
During the Goryo Dynasty(918-1392) and the Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910), women were not free to go outside and could not receive formal education from institutionalized organizations such as village schools or hyang-gyo(the Confucian temple and school for teaching young students in the Joseon Dynasty period). To be more exact, women were not made to learn at formal educational institutions. Families of high social status, who were able to let female members of the family learn Chinese characters, were few or learning at formal education organizations or at home was absolutely impossible.
Despite these restraints of the time, Kim Guem-won started learning with the help of her father. Her father was as good as a scholar but her family lived a poor life. However, with her strenous efforts of learning and her talent of learning, she became an iconic figure the time who was later recognized as one of writers from Wonju that represent ‘Women Literature’. She is a woman writer who represents the later period of the Joseon Dynasty.
Kim Guem-won was very literary talented from her early years of life. She learned Chinese language books that were essential prerequisite to erudite scholars, including anthologies of poems. She kept cultivating her talent for literature by continuing learning.
At the age of 14, her parents allowed her to travel to Mt.Geumgang-san, Seoul, and other areas after she persistently told her parents into letting her go wherever she wanted, see many things, and learn a lot. After her parents’ permission, she disguised her with men’s clothes and travelled through Mt.Geumgang-san(now in North Korea, very close to the borderline of Gangwon-do Province where Wonju is located), which made Kim Guem-won become more attached to the country and expand her view into the country. While travelling around, she wrote a series of poems about scenic views of Mt.Geumgang-san, its valleys, its rocks, and its water.
Right after she came home from trip to Mt.Geumgang-san, she was wedded to a noble man, Kim Duk-hee, as a concubine. It brought about a big turn-around to her life.
Kim Guem-won’s husband, Kim Duk-hee, was a very promising literary man who served as a scholar of Royal Books Library of Joseon Dynasty.
In 1845, her husband was assigned to Uiju, a county very near Amnok-gan River(now in North Korea, the river that divides the North Korea and China), as the minister of Uiju county and she was with him during his post for two years. In 1847, she came back to Seoul with her husband, started residing in a summer cottage of her husband’s, and engrossed herself in writing numerous poems. In 1850, her first anthology of poems(titled, ‘Writing Record of Lakes in the East and Rocks in the West) was complete and she wrote an introduction on her new collection of poems(titled, ’Anthology of Poems on Bamboos in the West).
What is very important to her life is that she established and managed the first and only association(‘Tower for Poems Surrounded by Three Lakes’, if we put it simply) consisting of women poets, which was unthinkable in those times. This was made possible because of her husband’s support and financial help.
The Kim Guem-won-initiated, managed, all female member poetry association was mostly composed of concubines and so-called Korean geishas. Most of them were gifted and talented poets.
As Kim Guem-won was born and raised up in Wonju, she was personally close to a Wonju-born and raised poet, Pak Juk-seo. Her friendship and personal bond with Pak Kuk-seo was strong. While she was active in managing the association and writing poems with the members, she wrote and published many masterpieces of poem.