Kang Yu-jung

Education, the Stairway of the Profane
With the notoriously ruthless South Korean education system under increasing scrutiny, contemporary writers are examining how this backbone of social mobility is faltering amidst intense competition and capitalist conformity. Told through the anxious eyes of parents, teachers, and the students themselves, these stories illuminate the complicated path that young Koreans must traverse on the journey to adulthood. In Gong Ji-Young’s “History of Insanity,” the author describes in lurid detail what Korean schools were like in her day. The novel features a main character innocent of what her experiences of that time would mean to her. As an elementary school student,...
SNS, the Double-edged Sword
SNS and Chirashi Advertisement: Dangerous Rumors, which opened on February 20, 2014, is a Korean film that turns the spotlight on the seamy underbelly of the Korean Internet. The original title in Korean is Chirashi, a word most Koreans are familiar with but merits explanation for readers from different cultures. The term chirashi, also sometimes used to refer to the stock market, is used in this case to refer to discreetly circulated newsletters of blind items, typically concerned with defaming public figures such as celebrities or politicians. In Korean, the word chirashi means “flyer.” While a flyer can be an...
Dating Culture
Dates and Dating: Unexplored Emotional Territory In the English vernacular, the word “to date” means “to go out with someone with whom one is romantically interested.” But the word deiteu (date) in Korean has a slightly different meaning: “two people meeting with the intention of pursuing a romantic relationship.” In other words, “dating” in Korean has more long-term overtones. Dating is the step before a relationship becomes serious, the stage full of tension and curiosity. It is notable that Koreans have opted to stick with this borrowed term to describe romantic relationships rather than finding a Korean equivalent. When the...
Popular Culture Connects with Literature: Kim Young-ha, Park Min-gyu, Kim Kyung-uk, Kim Junghyuk
1. Seek Within Popular Culture and Deliberate Through Literature Novels provide us with a multi-dimensional rendering of society’s cultural landscapes and desires. The language of the novel harnesses and gives form to desires drifting in reality; characters in novels and their conversations, sex, jobs, and lifestyles reflect the desires and deficiencies of their contemporaries. One great change that took place in Korean novels after 1987 was that personal desire was brought to the foreground. Contemporary novels began when the one-dimensional specimen of a fictional character evolved into an entity with individuality. Along those lines, it is notable that in Korean...
Novels in the Age of One-Source Multi-Usage (Late 1990s-Today)
From the mid-90s up to now, out of the newly coined phrases to appear during this period, the most culturally relevant phrase, is probably “one-source multi-usage.” The phrase describes a phenomenon where one cultural item becomes reinterpreted and disseminated into different formats and genres. A good example: the play Yi was turned into a film, and the script for the play was used for the film version as well. Strictly speaking, this unfamiliar and foreign term is related to a process that is normally referred to as an adaptation. Adaptation usually involves a single process; for example, a play gets...
Consuming Disaster: Travelers of the Night by Yun Ko-eun
Disasters are unfortunate events faced by humanity. With disasters claiming tens of thousands of lives, some regard them as a kind of message or sign. Disasters are also sometimes referred to as the final judgment. Travelers of the Night , a novel by Yun Ko-eun, takes this belief one step further. The book introduces characters who perceive disaster as a consumable good, instead of a revelation. This is the reality of a post-capitalist society, which reduces all of nature to capital. Ko Yo-na, the protagonist, works at a travel agency. She disguises herself as a tourist and heads for Mui,...
Whispering Into the Night: Night Cello by Lee Eung Jun
Lee Eung Jun writes dark stories. Or rather, he used to write dark stories. For a while, however, for instance in The Private Life of the Nation or All About My Romance , he wrote in a lighter, or at least more accessible style. Night Cello is a collection of short stories that breaks a long silence for Lee. The world that emerges in these deeply intimate stories is a throwback to a classic Lee Eung Jun darkness. Its characters listen to the sounds of the night cello. They live in the night, not the day, and their lives are...
The Neighborhood Makes the Name: Oksu-dong Tigers by Choi Ji-un
In South Korea, the name of the district you live in is not merely a name. It is a mark of one’s rank and a manifestation of one’s class. That is the reason why people are obsessed with the image of their neighborhood. There are those who will work their whole lives in order to obtain a certain address. Oksu-dong Tigers , a novel by Choi Ji-un, uses such facts about social status as a backdrop. The author has depicted the fictional space of “Oksu-dong” as a place where affluence and poverty, the upper and lower classes, and pretentions and...
An Insult to Blind Love: The Foundation of Love: A Couple's Story by Jeong Yi Hyun
Jeong Yi Hyun is no stranger to the theme of love and romance. In her first work, Romantic Love and Society , Jeong took love and romance from its place in the philosophical sphere and placed it in a social context by defining romantic love as a temptation that coerces men and women into a social contract. Simply put, romance, according to Jeong, is a voluntary self-deception and fantasy. The Foundation of Love: A Couple's Story is a record of a relationship between two mature adults who fully understand that a romantic relationship is a social contract. If perfect love...
Religion Is the Final Destination: A Wanderer by Jeong Chan
In A Wanderer , two time zones co-exist. One is the period of the Crusades and the other is the present. Author Jeong Chan refers to these two different times zones as the hour of reincarnation. Here, reincarnation is not a religious concept but is instead a secret part of our lives. What this means is that our present-day life is separated into two components. That is, life from a different space and different time era is one’s former life; it indicates that from a historical point of view an independent life of its own is altogether impossible. In other...

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