ISSN : 0023-3900
The story of a woman who pursues romance and marriage is popular source material in many cultures. “Chunhyang jeon” (The Tale of Chunhyang) is similar to “Cinderella,” in that each is a tale of a mistreated young woman who is presented with an opportunity to marry well and escape her situation. “The Tale of Chunhyang,” however, encompasses not only universal but also local themes. Chunhyang’s marriage above her social position suggests a serious challenge to Korea’s social stratification system, so knowledge of local practices is required to appreciate the rebellious message embedded in the text. This article investigates how the pendulum of interpretation has swung between the ubiquitous theme of love and the local message of political change through emancipation, by examining the earliest English translations of the story—“Chun Yang” (1889) by Horace Allen and “Choon Yang” (1917–1918) by James Gale. The translations do not simply restate the story but rather reinvent the hero and heroine to modulate Western readers’ engagement with Korean culture. This article explores how Western missionaries defined the literary meanings and values of “The Tale of Chunhyang” through translation practices, and how they reinvented Korean cultural identity in their representation of the tale in English.