Shining a Light on the Shadow of Globalization through Shamanism
- onMarch 4, 2016
- Vol.31 Spring 2016
- byHwang Sok-yong
The Eurocentric narrative of world history began to be questioned during the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Johann Gottfried Herder resisted the Western-centric “universal history”with his statement “that which is ethnic is worldly” and promoted the right of non-Western peripheries to historical sovereignty. Going further, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe advocated the concept of “World Literature” (Weltliteratur) with the idea that it holds a great purpose for the Progress of Man when ethnic literature crosses national boundaries and becomes a tool for communicating with the world. Hwang Sokyong has worked passionately to help realize that“ethnic literature is world literature”—an idea that both Herder and Goethe pursued. In his literary career, which spans over forty years, Hwang has shown the reality of a divided Korea, given critical insight into the Cold War, and pursued a deep introspection of the problems of globalization.
Until the 1990s, Hwang Sok-yong’s novels were a model of traditional realism, but since the 2000s he has been trying something new by using traditional Korean narrative forms to explore current issues in East Asia and in world history. The first work in his “East Asia trilogy” is The Guest (2001), where he borrows the form of the Chinogwi exorcism of Hwanghae Province, a ritual used to release the pain and regrets of the dead, in order to write of those who were sacrificed to both the left and right’s ideological conflict during the Korean War. Thus Hwang attempts to knock down the walls built by the Cold War to begin the process of reconciliation. This was followed by Shim Cheong (2003), in which the structure of the tale of Shim Cheong, who sacrificed herself to the Dragon King to ensure a safe passage, is used to discuss the process of modernization through the plunder of East Asia by imperialist powers and its subsequent incorporation into the world market.