Essays

Expanding the Overseas Appeal of Korean Literature in Translation
I recently attended the Seoul International Book Fair in mid-June and was greatly impressed by the dynamism and multiplicity of the Korean trade publishers exhibiting there. Korean publishers are active in translating books from all over the world, especially from the Japanese and English languages. As a literary scout based in New York and working in 19 countries, it was an eye-opening experience to see books from all over the world displayed in the Korean publishers' booth. I was also surprised to see how many people are fluent in English and familiar with English language authors. I met with Lee...
My Favorite Korean Children’s Book
My interest in Korean children’s literature began in 2007, with the birth of my second child. I was struggling to come up with a topic for my doctoral dissertation. My older son was two and a half, and began to request that I read longer books to him at bedtime. Back then we were living in Canada, and the books I owned and borrowed from the library were the ones I had read as a child. At that time I had been reading Korean literature for almost 10 years, but I suddenly came up with a new question: What do...
Creating a Library of Korean Literature
It is a fact known to most in the literary world that very few literary works from non-English speaking countries are being translated into English, either in the United States or the United Kingdom. This situation began to develop as long ago as the early 1980s and has now reached a critical stage. The diminishment in books not only reflects a scarcity of contemporary world literature reaching English readers, but because English is now the bridge language to other countries, it also creates severe problems in having texts available that can be read throughout the world by both readers and...
How I Discovered Korea
Even as a small child I was attracted by the history and culture of far-off, unknown countries, and it cannot have been a coincidence that at university I studied history as well as Hungarian literature and language. Combined with general curiosity, a personal experience played a role in forming my interest: My father was a surgeon, and in 1950 as a member of the first group of doctors sent to Korea he spent a whole year on the front, dropped right in the middle of the Korean War. A hospital train took the group of about 30 doctors and other...
MerwinAsia Emerges on the Translation Scene
I’m pleased to report that MerwinAsia published two volumes of Korean literature in translation in 2010. They are The Long Road, a novel by Kim Insuk, translated by Stephen Epstein, and Until Peonies Bloom, the complete poems of Kim Yeongrang, translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé. I have been in touch with Professor Epstein over the years, and of course knew of him by reputation, but have never met him. A chance e-mail conversation led to the publication of his translation of The Long Road . I met and got to know Brother Anthony at a conference held by the...
Kim Hoon: A Writer Who Writes with His Body
Kim Hoon writes in longhand, using pencils. He worked as a journalist for over 20 years before he started publishing novels, but strangely enough, he has never touched the keyboard of a typewriter or a computer. In this digital day and age, he insists on writing the analog way. Kim has always said, “When I write with pencils, I feel that my body is propelling the writing forward. I am incapable of writing a single line without this feeling.” To him, a pencil is not merely a tool for writing, but the embodiment of the writer himself. Kim Hoon uses...
Transnationalism in Korean Literature
Among the many forms of transnationalism in literature, this article deals with the issue of crossing or breaking down boundaries in the spatial sense. In this context, transnationalism in Korean literature refers to Korean writers going beyond the spatial environment of “Korea” and staging their works in other spaces. This space is where the activities of characters or events in a writer’s work take place and the message of the writer is conveyed. The structure of this space can become a factor that determines the content of the work. In other words, a space in a literary work is a...
Land : A Classic Korean Novel
The novel begins at the end of the 19th century during the autumn festival in 1897 when King Gojong was crowned emperor and the name of the country changed from Joseon to the Korean Empire; it ends on August 15, 1945, the day Korea was liberated from Japan. In other words, it is a historical novel that contains the 50 years of modern Korean history and at the same time a micro-history of the everyday lives of the people. It is similar to Balzac’s The Human Comedy or Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart in that many intellectuals and farmers appear, and the...
The Diaspora: Exploring Exile from the Homeland
It is lamentable that people have to leave their homeland due to political, religious, and financial difficulties. These people are victims of history, especially if they were forced to flee because of war or colonization. Literature about the Korean diaspora simultaneously exposes and heals the sufferings of those who left their homeland and were unable to return. But moreover, it proposes valuable lessons for those of us who have survived being part of the diaspora. Korea was not exempt from the difficulties of the past century. The Japanese occupation in the early 20th century, the Korean War in the 1950s...
Religious Transcendentalism: From Fate to Free Will, a Continuous Tension
Human beings have a fundamental longing for the sacred. Religion is the institutionalized result of this longing. A culture without a systematic religion or faith probably does not exist on earth. Korean culture is no exception. Unlike Western civilization, which has been based on Christianity since its inception during the Roman Empire, Korean culture has leaned toward polytheism. Until recently, shamanistic tendencies have been predominant in Korean culture. A major turning point in the religious history of Korea came at the end of the 19th century when Christian missionaries from the West arrived in Korea. Christianity, as a monotheistic religion,...

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