HIS Introduction to Korean Literature
(Instructor : Kim Yang Sun)
This course will introduce Korean literary history and some modern writers'
literary works. Korean literature, specially modern Korean literature, have
undergone the diverse and dynamic changes. And it's formation and process is
interrelated with the Korea's specific social, cultural context. For example,
coloniality by Japan from 1910 to 1945, Korean War in 1950 and the division
of nation, people's resistance for the democracy from 1960's to 1980's.
However, it is impossible to know the entire Korean literary history and lots
of writers and their works for only a few hours. So this course will present
the broad context of Korean literary history, and will introduce some
significant writers' works.
1. Overview of the main events in modern Korean history
2. Overview of the modern Korean literary history
3. Reading some poems by Ko-un and discussion
(The topic for the discussion will be given with the lecture script)
4. Reading short story by Oh Jung Hee and discussion
(The topic for the discussion will be given with the lecture script)
Students will read the translated version of Korean literary works(poems and
short story). And through this reading and lively discussion, students can get
the knowledge about Korean's trauma, consciousness and rich cultural
background. Most of all, literature as an entity of national identity will be
1. Ko-un, <Ten Thousand Lives>, translated by Anthony Brown, 2005
(some copied poems will be given before this course)
2. Oh Jung Hee, <Chinatown>, translated by Peggy C. Cho, (Hollym, 2004)
<Lecture Script - Korean Literature>
1. Brief Introduction about modern Korean literature
- 'Korean' literature is the entirety of literature written by ethnic Koreans,
from ancient times to the present.
- traditional and modern Korean Literature : Korean Literature written before
the end of 19th century is referred to as 'traditional Korean Literature' and
literature written after that time as 'modern Korean Literature'.
-In 20th century, Korean society and culture underwent the most traumatic
changes in all of Korean history.
- There are two most important historical events which influenced the
formation of Korean culture, Korean literature, and national identity. One is
the colonial experience by Japan, and the other is the Korean War in 1950.
- The unfolding of Korean modern literature is commonly divided into three
main stages. Each linked to the abrupt changes in social conditions.
- The literature of the period reaching from the end of the 19th century
through the early years of the 20th century called enlightenment period
literature. The second stage is the literature of the Japanese colonial period,
running from early in the century to 1945. Post-liberation literature from
1945 to now is included in the third stage. (enlightenment period literature,
colonial period literature, division period literature)
* colonial period literature
-The modern Korean novel was derived from the impact of Western novels by
way of Japanese translations and literary criticism by young Korean writer's
in the early 20th century.
-the establishment of modern literature in genre, form
-the conflict between modernism and realism
-poetry and poet - Kim So Wall, Han Yong Un, Yoon Dong Ju, Jeong Ji Yong
-novel and novelist - Lee Kawng Su, Kim Dong In, Lee Sang, Park Tae Won,
Kim Yu Jeong, Lee Hyo Seok, etc
-the rise of women writers - Kang Kyung-e, Choi Jeong Hee, No Ch대n
Myung, Mo Yoon Suk, etc
* Division period literature : post-colonial period
-Despite of the emancipation in 1945, Korea was divided into North and South
because of the ideological conflict(Socialism/Liberalism). And after Korean
War(1950-1953), the division of Korea became hard. The division of land and
people has functioned as the predominant variable in every aspect of live's
Korean people. And the literature have been reflected this tragic condition.
-Ordered by the concept of chronological sequence, we can divide the
division period literature into some periodic stages. It is related with the
social, political changes in South Korea.
1) 1950's - post war literature, existentialistic quest about human existence
because of the trauma of the war, anticommunistic novels and poems
2) 1960's - April 19 Civil Revolution, appearance of writers who are Hangul
generation, literary presentation about divisional condition or democracy
3) 1970's-1980's - Yu-sin period(1970's), Kwangju Civil Uprising(1980),
democratization, industrialization, the age of realism, resistance through
4) 1990's to present - post modern society, literary crisis, more interested in
the individual than the society or community
2. Poetry of Ko-un <Ten Thousand Lives, 만인보>
- introduction to the author
- introduction to the poems
①first published in 1986, not completed yet
②'poetic record about ten thousand people's lives'
③various records from the records about poet's family, relative, neighbor to
the nameless people, historically important man.
④ reflection about national painful history in the people's and nation's
- topics for the discussion
1. <Ten Thousand Lives> is still written. Why Ko-un attempts this
2. What is the meaning of <Ten Thousand Lives>?
3. His poems adapts the form of biography, so these are not lyrical but epic,
and have the narrative. Let's discuss about the narratives which is presented
4. How's the first impression when you first read these poems?
5. Ko-un is the resistant and realistic, social-oriented poet. What is the main
theme of his poems (which you read)?
6. Is his poems poetic or non-poetic? Why?
7. Which kinds of people are presented in his poems?
8. In his poems, both the narrative about anonymous or ordinary people and
the narrative about outstanding figure exist together. Are two kinds of
narratives different or similar? Let's discuss about similarities and differences
in style, tone, etc. And discuss about the poet's intention.
3. Short Story of Oh Jung Hee <Chinatown>
- introduction to author
- introduction to novel
Incheon is the second largest port city in Korea. It was the location of the
famous landing operations led by General Douglas McArthur during the
Korean War. After the war, American soldiers are stationed in Incheon. The
city is overrun by refugees and slums and becomes a city of disorder and
immorality. The Chinatown in this city especially is a dirty slum, inhabited not
only by the Chinese but also by prostitutes(called in Yanggongju) and
Oh Jung Hee's <Chinatown> tells the story of young girl who was living in
Incheon's Chinatown just after the war. The girl is nine years old(second
-grade) at the beginning of the story, and she becomes a sixth-grade at the
end of the story. She experiences and learns about sex and death. Maggie, the
prostitute, and girl's grandmother dies tragically. Also the girl's mother goes
through her 7th pregnancy. These are some of the people in the confusion of
the girl's world. So <Chinatown> is a story of a girl coming of age, a candid
account of life in post-war Korea.
- topic for the discussion
1. What is the background of this short story?(time, space) Let's discuss about
the meaning implied in the background.
2. Why did the writer present a little girl as a main character?
3. Why are there many women appears in this short story? What is the
characteristics of each woman?
4. This novel is a initiation story. That is, it deals in the growth of one child.
The most important experience in the initiation story are about the death and
the love(or sex). Let's discuss about the death in this novel.
5. In the girl's growing up, the various types of women and their lives
influence her. How did they influence to her?
6. Why does the girl do the menstruation at the end of the novel? (the
meaning of menstruation)
7. Why does Chinese man so often appear? What is the symbolic meaning?
8. This novel is related with the condition of after Korean War in 1950.
Choose the scene or situation in this story which is related with the war.
9. The experience about the war differs from the sexual difference. That is the
female and the male differ in the response about war. Let's discuss about