Essays

The City: Modern Korean Literature Emerges from the City
City life is one of the most universal experiences of modern people, which is not to say that this experience represents all facets of modernity, but it is true that it does encompass its most problematic aspects. The city is a product and process, not to mention the driving force of modernization. It is axiomatic that modern Korean literature not only delves into the problems of the city, but also raises issues with modernity. The foremost tasks for studying modernity in Korean modern literature are analyzing how cities are constructed in modern Korean literature, and how much of the urban...
Society & The Imagination: Novels Testify to Their Era
Japanese literary critic Karatani Kojin once talked of the death of modern literature. Although literature used to deal with matters that politicians couldn't handle, he claimed that in the current era, modern literature had given up this role, thereby signaling its own demise. An interesting fact is that Karatani held up Korea as evidence of this decline. In reality, South Korean writers exposed various contradictions facing society, focusing their efforts on portraying the people's difficulties in navigating a paradoxical society. They accomplished many achievements big and small in visualizing these struggles. It is no exaggeration to say that the power...
Love: Reinventing Romantic Love
Romantic love is a historical phenomenon that appeared with the advent of modernism. Today, it is common knowledge that people get married because they love one another. But it was not until after the advent of romantic love that love became a condition for marriage and the causal relationship between love and marriage was established. Before romantic love became the social norm, people were often given the freedom to pursue romantic love after they had fulfilled the duty of marriage. Romantic love, no matter how you look at it, has a commanding influence on the concept and image of love...
Family: The Decline of the Patriarch, the Rise of the Matriarch
Trauma, or the Mother as Origin I think it is no coincidence that the most notable Korean novels on the theme of family have the mother narrative at their core. A mother’s worldview and the values she instills in her children play a defining role in a child’s life. What is the image that comes to mind when we think of mothers? One who protects me, one who will stand by me to the end, one who will sacrifice everything for me. We have been harboring so many selfish prejudices and unjust fantasies of what a mother should be. People...
The Avant-garde: Contextualizing Korean Literature and Experimentation
The history of modern Korean literature has been one that identifies the writing of literature with the question of what is literature. On the one hand the rise of realism and lyric poetry put verisimilitude before everything else; while on the other hand they treated the question of what it means to write as the subject of literature. Realism and lyric poetry are similar in that both seek to identify reality (or emotions) with the language of literature. Avant-garde literature in Korea departs from this mechanism of identity by objectifying the language and subject of literature, seeking instead to examine...
Women: His-story, Her-story, Our-story
The turning point for women’s writing in Korea came in the late 1980s. Postmodernism had made its appearance along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, resulting in an increased scrutiny on the literature of the past written mostly by men about men, with a focus on ideology and reason. Now women writers in the 21st century are evolving in a direction that emphasizes the differences in rights over duty and power over disenfranchisement. Korean women’s writing stands out as a successful example of thinking globally and acting locally in the literary sphere, more so than any other subgenre of...
People: A Beautiful Country Is a Community of the Imagination
One of the great challenges that Korean literature faces in the postmodern period is how to invent a meaningful community of imagination that can satisfy the following equation: people = state (or capital). This paradigm is deeply related to the fact that Korean history in the postmodern era progressed under the people ≠ state (or capital) model. Around the time that Korea was independently forming the idea that people = state (= capital), the Japanese Empire forced Korea to pursue the people ≠ state paradigm. Even after Korea's liberation, this paradigm continued unchanged, with the Cold War unavoidably perpetuating it,...
History & Memory: What History Has Forgotten, Novels Have Remembered
What happens at the meeting of history and the novel? In the sense that both depend on memory and imagination to varying degrees, they tell the same story: a fiction. Memory and imagination play an important role as subjects and tools in historiography and writing novels. In formal historiography, fragments of memories are gathered together to become a collective memory. Putting together personal, fleeting memories to create a plausible story requires the judgment of a historian, but also imagination and ideology. Novels rely more on personal rather than collective memory. In this sense, perhaps the origins of fiction are forgotten...
Conveying Cultural Nuance in the Chinese Translation of Gwanchon Essays
Lee Mun Ku’s Gwanchon Essays , a serialized novel published between 1972 and 1977, is the story of a hometown that lives on in the memory of the protagonist. The hometown exists only in the main character’s memory; in reality, it has completely changed. Through the author’s memories, the reader can understand the scars of the Korean War, the abuses of industrialization, the collapse of traditional society, how relationships change over time, and the loss of hometown. The Chinese version of this novel was published in November 2012 by the People’s Literature Publishing House in China and began to attract...
The World of the Text
How a Murderer Remembers Kim Young-ha Munhakdongne Publishing Corp. 2013, 176p, ISBN 9788954622035 Kim Young-ha's recent novel, How a Murderer Remembers , ostensibly the story of a retired serial killer in his 70s suffering from Alzheimer's, is also an elaboration of the various ways in which one can not know . From simple ignorance and forgetting, to repression and disavowal, to neurological conditions such as dementia, Capgras delusions (delusional misidentification syndrome), and ultimately Alzheimer's, How a Murderer Remembers is a cautionary tale for those who believe what they are told, for whom memory is reliable, knowledge is certain, and language...

Pages