Korean literature in the twentieth century was marked by the confrontation between realism and modernism. This confrontation intensified particularly with the division after liberation and the Korean War. Moreover, several opportunities to overcome the confrontation were lost due to the immature state of both subjective and objective conditions. Consequently, the opposition between realism and modernism became, just like the Balkans, a sensitive tinderbox of Korean literature. In this junction, what is important now is a return to the workitself, while making clear that at the place where the best works are produced, realism and modernism have already reached a state of intercommunication.The confrontation between realism and modernism can be subsumed into the issue of how to survive the modern capitalism we face today. In Korean society, modernity is still something that needs to be achieved and simultaneously something that will end in catastrophe if it is not overcome. The intercommunication between realism and modernism is the first starting point of my efforts to visualize a solution to this conundrum.
Beginning in the mid-2000s, the characteristics and phenomena of “different literature,” as distinguished from the 1990s, were critically investigated. This investigation reflected great interest in the development of Korean literature in the twenty-first century, which took place with the emergence of new, heterogeneous literary texts unseen in the 1990s that gave new vitality to Korean literature. Following the concept of “hybridity,” I have examined Korean literature in the 2000s, the characteristics of which are “post-introvertedness” in novels, “schizophrenic language” in poetry, and the new genera-tion’s concept of “zero gravity.” “2000s literature” is not a single entity. For that reason, “hybridity” is an essential concept for understanding the literary space of the 2000s, even though it is associated with the new literary generation. The new generation’s concept of zero gravity displays an aesthetic hybridity in the sense that it escapes the grounding of historical reality and the innocence of genre grammar. The prob-lem lies in the analysis of how this hybridity will become an “energy of aesthetic overthrow” in the future, which is a task related to the future of Korean literature.
This paper sheds light on the characteristics and significance of historical geography in 21st century Korean novels. While drawing on the idea of imaginary geography in peripheral areas including todays Vietnam and Mexico in the twentieth century, Korean novels can be read as a literary form of Koreans sense of self-expansion as a country that can no longer be called Third World. Furthermore, the paper notes that this transnational imagination coincides with the attitude that the 38th parallel is the true national border. Empire of Lightby Kim Young-ha tells the story of a North Korean spy who becomes a legitimate citizen of the Republic of Korea, whereas Rina features a woman who refusesto be a Korean national. Appearing in opposition to each other, the two novels are driven by the paradigmatic shift from minjok togungmin.The transnational imagination presented in both Black Flowerand Sim Cheong set in the early twentieth century laments the end of themasculine subject in modernity, through the combination of global capitalism and female sexuality. The gender politics in these books express the end of the modern masculine subject formed from the masculine alliance of the working class and peasants on the one hand, while concealing capital-male domination on the other.
This essay aims to consider the limitations and possibilities of womens literature. Although womens literature played an enormous role in the renaissance of Korean literature, it was ghettoized into a literature of the biological woman. Especially Sin Gyeong-suk and her admirers confine women in the gendered space of the kitchen and thus keep womens literature relegated to a subgenre of literature. We cannot ignore the fact that womens literature of the 1990s, incriticizing the male-dominated literature of the time, asked questions about literature itself. Nevertheless, its power to provoke has been remarkably weakened by a market logic that commercializes the works of female writers and by the attempt of male critics to replace subversive womens literature with the image of home and maternity. However, new paths in womens literature are being exploredthrough the recent works of Cheon Un-yeong, Hwang Byeong-seung, and Kang Yeong-suk. They reposition women and femininity to the point where conventional lines between masculine and feminine blur while deepening and enlarging the scope of Korean literature. Cheon reveals a reversive gender consciousness through phallic women and feminine men; Hwang summons innumerable in-betweens ranging from man to woman by showing the performative and subcultural gender identities that constitute male and female; and Kang suggests a conceivable aesthetic of femininity by thinking of lives of women on the boundaries, especially in terms of the female body and sexuality.
Based on his clear understanding of the extinction of the form, role, and formative conditions of modern literature, Karatani Kojin asserts that modern literature has ended and further has fallen into the realm of entertainment. Karatanis discussion of the end of literature owes a lot to theHegelian concept of the end of art and Kojves notion of history. Karatanis end-of-literature thesis means that a historically determined possibility of knowledge and morality can no longer be realized in liter- ary works. As we all know, however, a great number of works of art produced after Hegels end-of-art declaration have significance in our culture. Another important cornerstone of Karatanis explanation is Kojves view of what comes after the end of history, as well as the animalization of humanity. According to Kojve, the end of history means that human society no longer negates the given world. However, this paper argues that despite the overriding trend of human animalization, man still has the impulse to negate the given nature, culture, and the self that constitute them. Nevertheless, Karatanis thesis should be regarded as a challenge for us to think more seriously about the reasons why literature itself must exist.
In this article, the author tries to articulate why contemporary Korean philosophy is satisfied with simply translating and mimicking Western theories from a historical and cultural psychological point of view. According to the author, Korean philosophy was intellectually colonized at three historical moments: namely, the period of Japanese colonial rule that derided traditional Korean philosophy as uncivilized and unenlightened, the military regimes that actively emulated the West in the name of modernizing the fatherland, and the period of neoliberal globalization that caused a crisis in humanities and liberal arts. Undergoing these historical changes, Korean philosophy came to identify itself as an importer and translator of Western theories, thus abandoning its originality and self-reliance. At the end of the article, the author concludes with some suggestions and prospects for establishing an autogenous and self-reliant Korean philosophy.
The new term munhwa (文化 )or culture, that swept Korean society inthe 1920s was in fact adopted as the translation of the Japanese term bunka in the 1910s. the path to realizing the value of the concept ofculture in Korea could not help but be a rocky one. This was not only because Korea was a colony, but also because theconcept of culture itself was one re-defined by Japan for the purpose of calling its colonial ethnic groups the people of the Japanese Empire, and was formed in reference to bunka, the Japanese rendition ofculture. The intellectuals of a colonial Korea attempted to form their ownidentity and representation through Japans colonial discourse. If their efforts stemmed basically from implicit aspirations towards nation- state status, then the culture in colonial Korea can be regarded as a space in which munhwaconfronted and vied with bunka,as well as aspace in which munhwacould be absorbed by and integrated into bunka at any time.
How can one understand recent welfare reform in Korea? This research claims that Korea’s welfare reform since the late 1990s is not explained as a functional response to growing labor market uncertainty or as a democratic shift to a new welfare state. Alternatively, it discusses the issue in the wider context of labor market reregulation designed to embrace more market forces and safeguard likely reform losers. Focus-ing on regulatory changes in the realm of employment protection and income maintenance, this research presents two crucial findings: (1) Together with its wider range of employment security liberalization, cit-izenship- based income maintenance has constituted the Korean way of labor market reregulation, i.e., “counterbalanced marketization.” (2) This reform path is associated with the peculiar policy-making network structures of Korea, which gives leeway for the government to carry out bold reform projects. Comparisons with the Japanese and Taiwanese cases are offered to highlight the characteristic nature of the Korean welfare/labor market reform. Limitations of Korea’s labor market reform are also discussed.
This essay traces the development of interest in the study of Korean Buddhism in Europe over the past four decades. Unlike Japan and the United States, where academic interest in Korean Buddhism had been rapidly developing since the end of World War II, Europe lagged far behind and it was not until well into the 1970s that the situation began to slowly change. In this period Korean Buddhist studies was in its infancy in Europe, and it was mainly dominated by general topics, articles, and comparative issues. During the 1980s, a growing number of scholars in Europe turned their attention to Korean Buddhism, and in the 1990s, the terrain changed dramatically. Especially interest in the Seon tradition began to captivate the minds of scholars. Towards the end of the decade a new generation of scholars had appeared on the scene, and at present, Europe can boast a relatively large and grow- ing contingent of scholars whose work reflects various approaches to the study of the religion, which includes the study of epigraphical texts and the relationship between Buddhist church and state. It is probably no exaggeration to say that Europe has by now overtaken the United States as the leading academic force in the study of Korean Buddhism.