Korean Literature: Its History and Development Directions
Part II


by Professor Lim Chaesuk, Ph.D.
Department of Product Design, Hyupsung University
Seoul, Korea


Emeritus Professor Yang-Taek Lim, Ph.D.
Hanyang University
Seoul, Korea


Editor’s Note: Presented here is Part II of a Two-Part paper. Part I was published in the preceding July-August issue of this Journal. -JP



I. Introduction

II. History of Korean Literature

1.     Korean Modern Literature during the

Period of National Enlightenment

      1) Literature on ‘Strenuous Efforts to

Save the Country’

2) Literature for ‘Civilization and


2. Modern Literature under Japanese

 Colonial Rule Development

1) Beginning of Modern Novels

2) Modern Free Verse

3. Korean Modern Literature during the Period of Japanese Cultural Rule

   4. Korean Modern Literature during the Period of National Enlightenment Movement

      1) Nationalist Literature

      2) Socialist Literature

      3) Eclectic Literature

      4) Emergence of Pure Literature

   5. Korean Modern Literature during the Dark Ages

III. Development Direction of Korean

 Modern Literature



  3. Korean Modern Literature during the Period of Japanese Cultural Rule

The Japanese Imperialist’s Korean peninsula colonial policy can be summed up into 3 types: political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural distortion. Under such circumstances, the self-modernization of the Korean Empire was suppressed, and modernization of the colony was irregularly carried out. Since the March 1st Independence Movement in 1919, the Japanese Imperialists conducted the so-called cultural rule.  Of course, cultural rule was not different from the previous illegal rule in its essence, but it provided a great turning point for the activities of intellectuals and cultural movement. 

Several literary coterie magazine activities realistically supported quantitative growth and qualitative intensification of the cultural movement. The representative literary coterie magazine at the time included ‘Changjo’ (Creation), ‘Paeheo’ (Ruins), ‘Baekjo’ (Swan), and ‘Gumseong’ (Venus).

People from Pyeongyang such as Kim Dongin, Ju Yohan, Jeon Yeongtaek, Kim Hwan, and Choi Sungman played the key role and participated as initial literary coterie in ‘Changjo’ (Feb. 1919~May 1921). 'Yeongdae’ was a cultural literary coterie magazine centered around the Pyeongyang area as the latter magazine of ‘Changjo’ published on August 1924.

‘Ruins’ was a literary coterie magazine first published on July 1920. With people from Seoul playing pivotal roles, it was published up to the 2nd issue while Namgung Byeok, Yeom Sangseop, Oh Sangsun, and Hwang Seokwu participated in it. 

‘Jangmichon’ was a literary coterie magazine specializing in poetry and led by Hwang Seokwu on May 1921. But it was only published up to its 2nd issue. 

‘Baekjo’ published its first issue on January 1922. Hong Sayong, Park Yeonghee, Park Jonghwa, Hyeon Jingeon, Na Dohyang, and Kim Gijin also participated in it. This magazine was originally scheduled to print bi-monthly but only fell short at three issues. 

Yang Judong led the first publication of ‘Gumseong’ on November 1923. It was published up to its third issue as a literary coterie magazine focusing on poetry. Although creative poetry was published in it. Foreign literary works were usually translated and introduced. 

The literary coterie activities mentioned above broke away from the enlightenment of the previous literature and expressed new lyricism. It greatly contributed to the growth of Korean modern literature by focusing on the discovery of ego and expressing that emotion.

4. Korean Modern Literature during the Period of National Enlightenment Movement

After the March 1st Independence Movement in 1919, Korean modern literature pursued the new direction of development called ‘reform of life.’ The background behind this is followed : the keen interest of Korean people was in the establishment of the foundation of the national independence through ‘the reform of life.’ In other words, the resistance to the Japanese imperialism was expressed from the critical self-examination and acceptance of socialist ideology on the direction of the national movement emerging throughout the Korean society since the March 1st Independence Movement in 1919. Therefore, Korean modern literature unfolded in the two big branches: ‘Nationalist Literature,’ and ‘Socialist Literature.’

During the early 1920s, Kim Hyeongwon, Kim Gijin, Jo Myeonghee, and Lee Sanghwa revealed the present condition of the Korean (Joseon) society growing ever poor under the exploitation and oppression of the Japanese imperialists in various magazines such as ‘Sinsaenghwal,’ ‘Gongje,’ and ‘Gaebyeok.’ These people fused the critical awareness on the poor and oppressive reality with their previous romantic passion, and poured out their anger and defiance against the Japanese imperialists. 

For example, in ‘People unable to see the light’ and ‘ Cry of the have-nots’ by Kim Hyeong-won (金炯元, 1901~?), they mostly consist of humanitarian sympathy and pity for the mass people and the hatred against the oppressive reality. 

In ‘Hwagangseok’ (Granite) and ‘Groan of a Good-for-nothing’ written by Kim Gijin (金基鎭, 1903~1985), it shows sympathy to the people and a sense of calling on the Korean history. 

Lee Sanghwa (李相和, 1901~1943) shows the life of nomads and the lower class in relation to the colonial reality in his works such as ‘Gasang’ (Imaginary World). Especially, ‘Does spring come to even the stolen field’ expresses the extreme love for the land of a lost homeland. In other words, this poem specifically depicts the tragedy of a colony that cannot even enjoy the nature and the seasons.

‘Hwanghon’ (twilight)[1] by Han Seolya (韓雪野, 1900~1963) describes the process of an intellectual  (‘Yeosun’ in the work) becoming a labor worker and shows the process which coincides with the law of historical development. Concretely, it comprehensively takes a view of the colonial Joseon’ (Korea) during the period of the Great Depression with a special reference to the conflict between labor and capital due to the industry rationalization policy with Seoul during the 1930s serving as its background.

  1) Nationalist Literature

A nation can be classified in various ways according to various perspectives. Family line, language, and customs cannot clearly define the essence or characteristic of a nation. This is so because the classification of a nation changes according to the times. Therefore, an essential element in the concept of a nation is something more than language and culture, that is, a common history and identity. Nationalism can be considered as an idea that puts this concept of a nation first. 

Therefore, nationalist literature refers to a literature with this idea of nationalism, in other words, a literature putting a nation first. Thus, nationalist literature is a product of literary criticism activities carried out by the ‘Nationalist Literary School’ which had a strong interest in the history and tradition of Joseon’ (Korea).

Nationalist Literature School appeared as a response to ‘Musan Literary School’ by KAPF (Korea Artista Proleta Federatio) during the mid 1920s. Major figures in the ‘Nationalist Literary School’ included Choi Namseon, Lee Gwangsu, Sim Hun, Lee Eunsang, Lee Byeonggi, Kim Dongin, Park Jonghwa, and Jeong Inbo. They worked on creating ‘Sijo’ and historical novels and tried to establish its theoretical foundation by discovering and studying myth, tales, and history of ‘Joseon’ (Korea). Thus, they had interest in the history and tradition of a nation and tried to study the root of their nation and find its original form. Especially Choi Namseon (崔南善, 1890~1957) who stressed the spirit of the Joseon  (Korea) and worked hard to create Sijo’ (時調) and Lee Gwangsu (李光洙, 1892~1950) also wrote Sijo (時調) and historical novels to inspire national spirit.

‘The Soil’[2] written by Lee Gwangsu is a representative rural novel in the line of nationalism.  ‘The Soil’ is a work which was created in response to ‘V narod movement’ [3] by Dong-A Ilbo, which was similar to the rural enlightenment movement carried out by young Russian intellectuals during the late 19th century. This work was written with Chae Suban as the model who was serving in the Sinuiju prison due to violating the Maintenance of the Public Order Act at the time. In addition to this, Lee Gwangsu primarily began writing historical novels since the mid 1920s such as ‘Mauitaeja,’[4] and ‘Yi Sunshin.’[5] These historical novels are the works based on Lee Gwangsu’s ‘treatise on national renovation.’ 

‘Evergreen Tree’[6] by Sim Hun (沈熏, 1901~1936) is a work stressing not only cultural enlightenment such as the crusade against illiteracy and breaking down superstition but also active enlightenment of economic life. He claimed these points should be fused with a practical reality like an evergreen tree firmly planted in the earth against just empty talk or theories. 

Lee Eunsang (李殷相, 1903~1982) published ‘Nosan’s Sijo Collection’ in 1933. Most of his works reminisced about the atmosphere of the old days while visiting relics or beautiful scenery all over the country or depicted scenery with his excellent command of language. ‘The hill is right up there’ (1954) can be considered as an example of his works. 

Lee Byeonggi (李秉岐, 1891~1968) published ‘Garam’s Sijo Collection’ (1939). He often recited verses about antique subjects like Park Yeon Falls, orchid, and Japanese apricot flowers. Therefore, his works are similar to the poetical style of Choi Namseon or Lee Eunsang. However Lee Byeonggi had composed some modern poetries like ‘Breast,’ and ‘Grass Insects’ into Sijo’ (時調).   

Kim Dongin (金東仁, 1900~1951) strongly reflected his own personality into heroes and published historical novels like ‘The Young’[7] and ‘The Spring of Un Hyeon-gung.’[8]  Moreover, Yun Baeknam (尹白南, 1888~1954) was very popular among general readers at the time and his works include ‘Daedojeon’ (The Great Challenge)[9] and ‘Haejogok’ (解調哭).[10]

Damwon (薝園) Jeong Inbo (鄭寅普 1893~?)[11] as a scholar of Chinese classics, educator, and national historian engaged in the movement for arousing the national spirit. He actively wrote editorials related to Korean Studies on ‘Dong-A Ilbo’ during the 1920s. His major purpose of such writing was to teach the Korean people about the sacred cultural heritage left behind by their ancestors despite of the country’s downfall due to the invasion of Japanese Imperialism and to inform them about some great figures in Korean history to encourage the Korean people. The great figures for illustration are Dangun (the founder of Korea), Sejong the Great King, Chungmugong (Martial Lord of Loyalty) Yi Sunsin who defeated the Japanese raiders with the turtle ship during the Japanese Invasion (1592~1598), and the scholar of pragmatic learning Dasan Jeong Yakyong who accused the chronic corruption of Joseon Dynasty and emphasized the eradication of poverty in rural villages.

Even in the late 1930s, ‘The Blood of Kumsam’[12] and ‘Daechunbu’[13] written by Park Jonghwa (朴鍾和, 1901~1981) and ‘Mooyoung Pagodoa’[14] and ‘Heukchi Sangji’[15]Written by Hyeon Jingeon (玄鎭健, 1900~1943) were published as a serial novel in major newspapers. 

  2) Socialist Literature

Entering 1927, the switch in the direction of Socialist movement hit full stride. On April 14, 1926, the four factions of the Joseon (Korean) communist movement (such as Hwayohoe, Bukpunghoe, Worker’s Party of Korea, and Musanjadongmaenghoe) joined forces to organize ‘Jungwuhoe’ (正友會, implying ‘Right Friend Association) in Seoul.  Many major figures of ‘Jungwuhoe’ were arrested while the 2nd Joseon (Korean) Communist Party incident occurred as the June 10th Manse Movement  (1926) broke out in just two months after the formation of ‘Jungwuhoe’. As a result, ‘Jungwuhoe’ was in jeopardy as its executives were arrested by the Japanese police. But Ilwolhoe’ (日月), a group composed of Korean students studying abroad in Tokyo, stopped the demise of the organization by joining ‘Jungwuhoe’ that had lost its leadership due to the aforementioned Japanese oppression. 

For example, ‘Hometown’[16] written by Lee Giyeong (李箕永, 1895~1984) is the representative work of the Korean rural novels falling under Socialism. This novel is praised as being the epitome of ‘rural novel’ embodying the reality of rural villages at the time by fully fusing the specific essence of farmers with life by clearly depicting the farmer’s attachment and possessiveness of their land. However, the unnatural setting of ‘Labor-Rural Alliance’ which was the coalition of the rural movement and labor movement in the latter part of the novel stirred up some aversion.

  3) Eclectic Literature

Entering into 1925, the Korean nationalists claimed that although the essence and purpose of socialist movement and nationalist movement were different, they joined forces to fight against the Japanese Imperialists because they were basically facing a common enemy.

On November 3, 1926, ‘Jungwuhoe’  (正友會) announced ‘Jungwuhoe Declaration’ stating that they should temporarily unify with the Korean nationalist forces. ‘Jungwuhoe Declaration’ which advocated the change in direction by taking the need for the popularization of class struggle and the establishment of the united front. This declaration played an important role in the founding of ‘Shinganhoe’ of joint collaboration between leftist and rightist in 1927.

In the meantime, the first Korean national unification front organization, ‘Shinganhoe’ (新幹會) was organized.  It was the largest Korean national movement organization during the period of Japanese colonial rule formed as a united front of leftists and rightists between the Nationalist forces and Socialist forces aiming for nationalism under the motto, ‘the Korean National Cooperative Front of National Single Party’.

The aforementioned organization was proposed by 34 renowned persons including Ahn Jaehong (安在鴻), Lee Sangjae (李商在), Baek Gwansu (白寬洙), Sin Chaeho (申采浩), Sin Seokwu (申錫雨), Yu Eokgyeom (兪億兼), and Kwon Dongjin (權東鎭).

The political platform and policy (政綱政策) were realization of political and economic liberation of the Joseon (Korean) people, fight for realistic mutual interest of the entire Korean people, and denial of all opportunism. While there were internal conflicts between leftists and rightists, ‘Shinganhoe’  (新幹會) expanded its forces while organizing branches and chapters all over the country with the goal of breaking away from the national, political, and economic subordination to the Japanese Imperialists, winning the freedom of press, assembly, association, and support of the movement for the equality of youth and women, denouncement of factionalism and genealogy, opposition to the Japanese Orient Colonization Company, and engaging in thrift and saving movement.

However, while it was superficially an organization made by joint partnership of leftist and rightist forces, the socialists were very discontent on losing their hegemony to the Korean nationalists. These forces engaging in a movement break up Shinganhoe utilizing the chance when major executives of the organization was imprisoned owing to the Gwangju Student’s Movement in November 1921. Eventually, Shinganhoe’ (新幹會) was dispersed in just 4 years since its launch.

As the interest rose in the solidarity for class struggle for the liberation of the Korean people, even in literary circles, the movements began for seeking a solidarity of nationalist literature and socialists literature. ‘Eclectic Literature Theory’ was proposed to theoretically support such efforts for the national solidarity.

In his Shinmin’ (新民, implying ‘New People’) in May~June 1927., Yang Judong (梁柱東, 1903~1977) broadly classified the ideological factions at the time into 3 types: Orthodox faction, Conservative faction and Neutrals. 

First, the ‘orthodox faction’ is a ‘purely literary faction’ stressing form. This category included not only aesthetic literature but some nationalist literature. These group was interested in ‘how’ to write a literary work.

Second, the ‘socialist faction’ emphasized ideological content. The extremely leftist professional literature viewed literature as a mean of propagating socialist ideology.

Third, ‘neutralists’ emphasized the harmony between form and content. Yang Judong himself deemed that he was in line with the orthodox neutralists. In other words, he would first look at the cultural value of a work, and then clarify its social significance. 

Furthermore, Yang Judong claimed nationalist literature and socialist literature made a factual error of extremely emphasizing only one out of the two in relation to national issues and class issues. Such view of Yang Judong was summed up in his words in ‘Public Opinion on Literature & Arts’ (First Issue of Public Literature on Literature & Arts in May 1929): “In the current state of affairs, there is no class spirit exceeding nation, and there cannot be any concept of a nation beneficial for classes. In other words, we are Joseon people as well as proletariats in a colonialistic reality.”

As mentioned above, the Eclectic Literature Theory of Yang Judong is a byproduct of the critical mind to band together nationalist literature and socialist literature with a theoretical foundation of uncompromising Nationalism in response to such challenges in the era of the Japanese Imperialism when nationalist literature and socialist literature were in extreme conflict. 

Meanwhile, Yeom Sangseop (廉想涉, 1897~1963) sought for a relationship between nationalist literature and socialist literature from a position which is a bit different from that of Yang Judong. Yeom Sangseop emphasized that both nationalist and socialist literature should cooperate with each other with an open attitude of taking in a reasonable aspect of the other. In other words, he proclaimed that nationalist literature should be concerned about the aspect of class in Korean society and professional literature must also consider nationalist tradition and psychology. Thus, Yeom Sangseop emphasized the mutually-interactive relationship which is between nationalist movement and socialist movement. As an extension of such logic, he claimed “The idealistic movement and materialistic movement advancing together in cooperation is an essential need in Joseon’s reactionary movement against the Japanese colonial rule [17]

It is worthwhile to note the difference between Yang Judong and Yeom Sangseop. Yang Judong tried to graft socialist movement to nationalist movement based on the latter whereas Yeom Sangseop attempted to have both cooperate by finding a common goal while recognizing each of their identity.[18] Yeom Sangseop emphasized that individuality, national characteristics, and class characteristics should be equally valued.

4) Emergence of Pure Literature

When ‘Poetry Literature’ was first published on March 1930, pure poetry activities were actively carried out ‘Si-Munhak-Pa’ (Poetry Literary Faction). including Park Yongcheol, Jeong Jiyong, Kim Yeongrang, Shin Seokjeong, Lee Hayun, and Kim Sangyong. A characteristic of ‘Si-Munhak-Pa’ was, in one word, the pursuit of pure lyricism denying ideology.

A typical example would be Kim Yeongrang (金永郞, 1903~1950). He was a poet who displayed outstanding abilities in selecting and arranging poetic words and using cadence with the reverberation and nuance of mellow language.  In other words, he resolved the dark circumstances of the times through subjective lyricism by embodying the emotions of sorrow and longing through traditional rhythm (usually 3 or 4 meter tetrastich). His subtle sensitivity on such command of language fused objects and experience into aesthetic poetic concept. In summary, the poem of Kim Yeongrang are characterized by a well-polished poetic form, soft rules, subtle harmony of voice, and nuance of implicative language.

Meanwhile, Jo Jihun, Park Mokwol, and Park Dujin who appeared on the literary world by the recommendation of Jeong Jiyong (鄭芝溶, 1902~1950) published ‘Cheongrokjip’ (1946).  Since then, the three poets were called ‘Cheongrokpa,’ which formed a big mountain of Korean ‘lyrical poetry’ (敍情詩).  These poets set nature as the common subject of their poetry and showed the high level of nature poems and the traditional poetic flow of ‘Joseon’ (Korea). To them, nature was the only escape route of poetry for overcoming various limitations.

Jo Jihun (趙芝薰, 1920~1968) had selected ethic subjects from nature, folklore, and classics with his elegant language and fluent melody while pursuing the stage of Zen meditation. He embodied the charm of the ethnic subject using elegant and subtle language in his works including ‘Gopunguisang,’ ‘Sungmu,’ and ‘Bonghwangsu.’ 

Park Mokwol (朴木月, 1916~1978) used to write children’s poem at first. However, through works like ‘Wanderer’ and ‘Cheongnoru,’ he expressed a simple and ideal nature and folk material through distinct imagery by folk song style melody with its unique sorrowful tone. 

Park Dujin (朴斗鎭, 1916~1998) recited such songs that discovers the innocent vitality and fundamental power from nature and oneness with nature in a heart-touching way, as shown by his works, ‘The Sun’ and ‘Tomb Song.’

  5. Korean Modern Literature during the Dark Ages

The Korean literary society had completely lost its freedom of ideological expression by the Pacific War in 1941 following the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The Japanese Imperialists were desperately making all efforts to make Korean writers the informer of their invasion by making ‘Muninbogukhoe’ (文人保國會, implying the Literature Association for Japan).  As a result, the chances for the autonomy of Korean literature were annihilated. Therefore, most Korean literature excluded its political aspects and went in the direction of pure literature or anti-nationalist Japanese-friendly literature.

However, there were two poets who stood firmly and concentrated on their poetry while not falling into despair, despite the hopeless atmosphere of the dark ages. Lee Yuksa (李陸史, 1904~1944) and Yun Dongju (尹東柱, 1917~1945) were the two ‘stars’ which lit the darkness of the dark ages. After the liberation of August 15, 1945, ‘Poetry Collection of Lee Yuksa’ was published in 1946 and ‘The Poem of the Sky, the Wind, and the Star’ by Yun Dong-ju in 1948. 

Lee Yuksa was a fighter for national independence who died while in prison in 1944 participating in the independence movement abroad. He sublimated the yearning for national liberation with the spirit of patriotism well-established from Chinese poetry. His poetic spirit stemmed from his firm attitude towards life through his unwavering belief. He firmly believed that his dream would come true in the future while showing strength based on the pride of the nation in his works like ‘Cheongpodo’ and ‘Gwangya.’

On the other hand, Yun Dongju was also a poet who had a pure spirit and died in Fukuoka prison on February 16, 1945. His poems tried to surpass darkness and despair of the era of Japanese colonial rule along with the innocence of his awareness. His poems focused on religious and serious existential reflection about an individual. This was so because Yun Dong-ju didn’t actually live as a national activist like Lee Yuksa but because he walked the path of self-reflection while dreaming of a true life in a miserable reality as recited in his poems : ‘Another Home’ and ‘The Cross.’ Therefore, the spiritual foundation supporting the poetry of Yun Dongju stemmed from self-reflection and anguish that he couldn’t remain as a bystander to the reality of his nation at the time.

Sixty years later, Chosun Ilbo has selected ‘100 modern poems recommended by 100 poets’ and published them in series from January 1, 2008. Among these poets, Seo Jeongju (徐廷柱, 1915~2000) was recommended the most popular post from the aspect of raising the level of Korean poetry, and following him, Kim Suyeong (金洙暎, 1921~1968) was recommended because he broadened the horizon of Korean modern poetry with avant-garde modernism.

Meanwhile, many Korean people still love purely romantic poems of Yu Chihwan, e.g., ‘Book of Life’ (1938) singing about the lover for the Sijo poet Lee Yeongdo (李永道, 1916~1976), ‘Happiness’ (1953) and ‘Longing’ (What do you want me to do, wave?).

It is worthwhile to note that Korean modern poetry was expressed as a pent-up anger against the intensifying conflict between social classes and the yearning for democracy against dictatorship along with the Korean modern history of changes in politics and society.  Examples include ‘Grass’ by Kim Suyeong, a participatory poet after the April 19 Revolution in 1960, 'Faint Shadow of An Old Love’ by Kim Gwanggyu (金光圭, 1941~present) who recited a poem about the bitterness due to the failure of the April 19 Revolution, ‘A Burning Thirst’ by Kim Jiha (金芝河, 1941~present), a fighter for democracy who was arrested, imprisoned, sentenced to death at the first time and life imprisonment later for violating the National Security Law and emergency measures under the Park Jeonghee administration in the 1970s and released later on, ‘From Winter Tree to Spring Tree’ by Hwang Jiwu (黃芝雨, 1952~present), a political prisoner who fought against dictatorship, murder, and censorship in the 1980s, and ‘Midnight of Labor’ (1984) by Park Nohae  (朴勞解, 1957~present) who was called ‘an anonymous labor worker poet.’

At last, the thirst for democracy was quenched along with the Kim Yeongsam administration  (Feb. 1993~ Feb. 1998), and serious South-North Korean Talks began with the launch of the Kim Daejung administration  (Feb. 1998~ Feb. 2003). Under such a political atmosphere, the Korean poems yearning for national reunification poured out in relation to Mt. Baekdu just like the yearning for ‘Independence’ under Japanese colonial rule.

For example, there are ‘A Prayers on Top of Mt. Baekdu’ (1996) written Lim Yangtaek (林陽澤, 1948~present) and ‘Heavens and Earth of Mt. Baekdu’ (2009) written by Kim Yunho (金允鎬, 1953~present). The two poets, coincidently again, recited a poem about ‘Mt. Jiri’ where blood was shed with the ideological conflict. ‘Mt. Jiri’ (1995) recited by Lim Yangtaek consoles the unknown spirit which disappeared with the incense of Hwaum Temple, and wishes for the bright future of the motherland like ‘a bright morning sunshine’ shining down on Cheongwang bong. Even then, the poet wishes the youth of the motherland “to open up a new era with the ‘spirit’ and ‘passion’ that can jump over the soul mountain (靈山) of the nation, Mt. Baekdu with Cheongwang-bong as its steppingstone” while having pity on himself who has entered gray-haired middle age and lamented for the separated mountains and streams. In the meantime, Mt. Jiri’ (2009) recited by Kim Yunho sublimates the pain of ‘partisans’ (North Korean) as ‘the pain of Mt. Jiri’ and furthermore, ‘the pain of a nation.’

The two poets mentioned above met at the 2006 Award Ceremony for the New Literature Award conferred to Lim Yangtaek by Kim Yunho in the capacity of Chairman of the Baekdusan Writer’s Association. They have neither regionalism nor school connections. Poet Lim Yangtaek comes from Yeongnam (the Eastern region) whereas poet Kim Yunho comes from Honam (the Western region). This means that the two poets have no ties but met through only poetry as they both recited a poem about Mt. Jiri. How could they have come up with the same poetic concept from the same idea? This is what ties are all about. 

IV. Development Direction of Korean Literature

In conjunction with ideological conflict, the good thing is that Kwangyang Bay, the former stage of ‘the grassroots rebellion of Yeosun’ is now the pillar of Korean industrial competitiveness where ‘Kwangyang Steel Mill,’ the largest steel mill in the world, pours out 50,000 tons of steel every day. Now hooded cranes, the migratory birds for the winter (Natural Monument No.228) gather in the mud flats and thick reeds of Suncheon Bay (順天灣) where leftists and rightists clashed. This bay is expected to become a world-class tourist attraction as it become ‘the City of Thousand Cranes.’ The anonymous spirits who has ‘gone with wind’ will also be very proud of this sight of their homeland from the heavens.

As mentioned earlier, Mt. Jiri is a mountain with different ideas. Korean must unite under one idea, not communism but free democracy which foretold the end of history, and also not New Liberalism that was the main culprit of the global financial crisis but ‘Neopragmatism’ pursuing the greatest happiness for the greatest number. 

The main reason for which 1.3 billion Chinese people are enjoying better-off lives (溫飽) and are emerging as the dragon of the world is because they threw away the ‘Communism’ of Mao Zedong and chose ‘Pragmatism’ of Deng Xiaoping. If North Korea also changes their ideas, “The thick tears flowing down the cheek of female North Korean” (Chosun Ilbo, Nov. 25, 2009) would shine as bright as the ‘morning sunshine’ glittering in the end of the reeds of Suncheon Bay (順天灣). 

Korea recovered a lost nation  (although just half of it) in 1945. Following the hosting of the 1988 Olympics, a cosmopolitan festival, Korea hosted the G-20 Summit in 2010. The Republic of Korea has become the world’s top 15 economic power  (as of 2013) after overcoming the sorrow of poverty. Now Koreans must take all the deep sorrow of past times as the energy for taking a leap into the century of hope like the hooded crane of Suncheon Bay rising to the sky. 

However, there has been a rising unrest between social classes in Korean society where the country is at the brink of entrance into the era of 20,000 dollars per capita income, and this in turn is spreading and intensifying conflict between labor and management as well as ideological conflict. On the top of that, almost all members of Korean society seem to be falling into ‘materialism.’ As a result, Koreans all know that unpardonable atrocities are being committed remorselessly only for ‘money’. Now is the point to set up measures against social crisis after overcoming the so-called global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, a lot of literary works  (including poetry) related to conflicts between social classes and conflicts between ideologies have been published and are anticipated to be published in the future. Conflicts between social classes have started showing as polarization of income and mass unemployment intensified due to the foreign exchange crisis at the end of 1997 and the global financial crisis at the end of 2008. The pros and cons of the government policy to ease this conflict has been transferring and spreading into ideological conflict.

Hence the author would like to emphasize the role of literature in the reconciliation of various social conflicts in the hope that can play the role of a purifier that cleanses away the impoverishment of the materialistic trend from the social aspect, and from the aspect of an individual, it can play the role of an ‘aspirin’ which relieves and sublimates the anguish of life. 

The press must realize its role for the aforementioned purpose. It must lead, stimulate, and encourage the role of literature. The government and big corporations also should support subsidies to them in the form of ‘cultural promotion expense’ in order to avoid the publishing industry’s distortion of literature which mostly looks for popular authors. Especially, the Korean government should consider the cultural promotion policy which has been executed by the government of France, a ‘cultural power’ in Europe. For example, Charles André Marie Joseph De Gaulle  (1890~1970) during World War II appointed the world-renowned novelist, Andrew Malraux (1901~1976) as the first minister of culture, and even François Maurice Marie Mitterrand (1916~1996), the president of the Socialist administration appointed Jake Lang  (1939~present).

In the meantime, Korean citizens must now engage in a reading movement free from ‘imitation stories’ just like a routine in TV screens. According to the recent result of a survey on the actual condition of people reading books  (Kookminilbo, Sept. 23, 2009), the monthly average reading time of Koreans is 3.1 hours and just about 1 books per month. This means that the average adult reads only 12 books in a year and 3 out of 10 doesn’t even read one book. As a result, Korea is the last among OECD nations. Is this indeed the cultural level of a nation with 5,000 years of history? At that level of culture, it should be impossible for the class of an individual and that of the country to be enhanced further. The author believes that only when the government, big corporations, and the citizens work hard to make ‘the cultural power of the Orient’, the country’s class of Korea should be able to be enhanced.

Generally, if the dignity of social members of a country is higher, the cultural level of that country can only be higher. ‘Culture’ is the embodiment of ‘values’ such as religion, philosophy, art, science, technology, and social customs which a nation has independently developed.[19] On the other hand, ‘civilization’ refers to the status of enlightenment when a society highly developed spiritually or physically after breaking away from a primitive state. While culture means the life style from the spiritual aspect of a nation, civilization can be referred to as the material product of mankind.

Material values (civilization) can be a means to enhancing spiritual values (culture) but not representing the value itself (culture). In this sense, spiritual values  (culture) are advanced doesn’t necessarily mean it is accompanied by material values (civilization). However, spiritual values (culture) not supported by material values (civilization) are difficult to maintain and are only vain. Moreover, material values (civilization) without spiritual values (culture) stir up conflict in a society and make it impoverished. 

Therefore, if there is a poor level of culture, quantitative economic growth may cause ‘war of all against all’  (Thomas Hobbes, 1588~1679) and can eventually lead to its limitation. Only when economic growth as well as cultural development, the coexistence of economic growth with cultural development through the corresponding social transformation can make the country become ‘an advanced nation’ or the so-called ‘the leading country in the world.’ 



Ahn Hwak (1922), History of Joseon Literature, Seoul : Hanil Bookstore.

Baek Cheol (1948), “Korean Newspaper Undergraduate Research”, Modern Times Volume, Seoul: Suseonsa.

Baek Cheol (1949), “Korean Newspaper Undergraduate Research”, Current Times Volume, Seoul: Suseonsa.

Baek Nakcheong (1969), Citizen’s Literature Theory, Seoul : Creation & Criticism.

Cho Dongil (1982), ‘Introductory History to Korean Literature’, Volume 1~5, Jisik Sanup Publication Co., Ltd. `

Eom Muwung (1978), Issue of Overcoming Colonial Literary Viewpoint, Seoul : Creation & Criticism.

Kim Gijin (1958), 30 years we have walked, Seoul : Sasanggye.

Kim Dongin (1948), Traces of 30 Years of the Literature World, Seoul : Sincheonji.

Kim Hyeon and Kim Yunsik (1972), History of Korean Literature, Seoul : Culture & Intellect

Park Jonghong, Overview on History of Korean Modern Literature,

Yeom Sangseop (1927), ‘Literature & Arts and Life,’ Chosunmundan No.19, February Issue

Yeom Sangseop (1927), “A Spiritual Study of National Social Movement,” Chosunilbo.

Yeom Sangseop (1962), “Hwaengbo Mundan Hwaesanggi,” Seoul : Sasanggye.

Lim Yangtaek (2008), “A Study on the Logical Structure of Neopragmatism : Eastern and Western Philosophy”, Hanyang Journal of Economic Studies volume 29 no.2, Hanyang Economic Research Institute, Nov. 30.

[1] Chosun Ilbo, Feb. 5, 1936~Oct. 28, 1936

[2] Donga Ilbo, Apr. 12, 1932~ Jul. 10, 1933.

[3] 'V narod’ means ‘into the people.’ <0} {0>공동체 미르(mir 러시아의 독자적인 농민자치공동체) 기초로 하여 자본주의 단계를 거치지 않고 사회주의로의 이행이 가능하다고 믿는 지식계층이 민중계몽을 위해 농촌으로 파고들었을 때에 '브나로드' 슬로건으로 내세웠다.<}0{>The intellectual class who believed it was possible to transition from feudalism to socialism without going through the stage of capitalism based on community Mir (an independent Russian farmer’s autonomous community) took ‘V narod’ as their slogan when they penetrated into rural villages to enlighten the people. <0} {0> 슬로건 아래 1873년에서 1874년을 정점으로 하여 2,500명에 달하는 러시아의 진취적인 젊은 지식인층이 교사·의사·점원·노동자가 되어 농민에게 나로드니키(Narodniki) 혁명사상을 선전하였으나 기대한 만큼의 성과를 얻지 못하고 1874 가을까지 많은 선동자들이 검거되어 이른바 ‘193 재판에서 처벌을 받았다.<}0{>Under this slogan, about 2,500 young and adventurous Russian intellects became teachers, doctors, clerks, and labor workers from 1873 to 1874 as its peak. They propagated revolutionary ideas of Narodniki to farmers but didn’t achieve the result they had hoped for. Many instigators were arrested up to the fall of 1874 and they received punishment at the so-called, ‘The Trial of 193.’ <0} {0> 운동은 농본주의적 급진사상으로 발전하는 1870년대의 혁명적 나로드니키의 출발점이 되었다.<}0{>This movement became the starting point of a revolutionary Narodniki during the 1870 when it developed into a radical physiocratic idea.<0} {0>한국에서도 운동의 영향을 받아 1931년부터 1934년까지 브나로드운동이 농촌계몽운동으로 전개되었다.<}0{>Even in Korea, under the influence of this movement,V narod movement’ had developed into a rural village enlightening movement from 1931 to 1934.

[4] Donga Ilbo, May 10, 1926~ Jan. 9, 1927.

[5] Donga Ilbo, Jun. 26, 1931 ~ Apr. 3, 1932.

[6] Donga Ilbo, Sept. 10, 1935 ~ Feb. 15, 1936.

[7] Donga Ilbo, Sept. 2, 1930 ~ Nov. 10, 1931.

[8] Chosun Ilbo, Apr. 26, 1933~ Feb. 15, 1934.

[9] Donga Ilbo, Jan. 16, 1930~Jul. 13, 1931.

[10] Donga Ilbo, Nov. 18, 1931~Jun. 7, 1932.

[11] Jeong Inbo (鄭寅普) participated in the preparatory project for founding the Republic of Korea, and exerted all his energy in the establishment of a rigid discipline among government officials of the new country by serving as the first prosecution chairman after founding the nation.<0} {0>그러나 1950 6·25 동란 서울에서 납북당하여 정확한 사망연월을 없다.<}0{>However, he was abducted to North Korea from Seoul during the Korean War  (1950~1953) and there is no accurate data on his date of death.

[12] Maeilshinbo, Mar. 20, 1936~Dec. 29, 1936.

[13] Maeilshinbo, Dec. 1, 1937~Dec. 25, 1938.

[14] Donga Ilbo, Jul. 20, 1938~Feb. 7, 1939.

[15] Donga Ilbo, Oct. 25, 1939~Dec. 28, 1939.

[16] Chosun Ilbo, Nov. 15, 1933~Sept. 21, 1934.

[17] Yeom Sangseop  (1927), ‘A Spiritual Study of National Social Movement,’ Chosunilbo. Jan. 4 1927~Jan. 15, 1927.

[18] Yeom Sangseop  (1927), ‘Literature & Arts and Life,’ Chosunmundan No.19, February Issue.

[19] The term, ‘Culture’ was originated from the Latin, ‘cultura.’ Its original meaning was ‘cultivation’ or ‘growing’ but later on it contains the meaning of ‘refinement and arts.’

[ back to "Publications & Special Reports" ]
[ BWW Society Home Page ]