ISSN : 0023-3900
This paper reimagines cosmopolitanism in postwar South Korea by understanding Ri Yeong-hui (1929–2010) and Choe In-hun (1936–2018) as cosmopolitan readers. A cosmopolitan reader refers to an individual who tenaciously intermingles personal history and human history, and national issues and transnational issues in her imagination while reading. Ri, widely known as a dissident intellectual, repeatedly undermined the power of anticommunism and the logic of the Cold War through his lifelong project of reading. In his last published interview, Daehwa (Conversations, 2005), Ri exemplifies a cosmopolitanism of dissent by invoking the transnational nature of national issues in the Third World. The renowned novelist Choe In-hun shares critical characteristics with Ri as a cosmopolitan reader. The narrator of his autobiographical novel Hwadu (The Keyword, 1994) emerges as a novelist whose literary imagination is not bound by national borders. The two figures’ performative acts of cosmopolitan reading suggest that cosmopolitanism is an ongoing process in which the reader seeks a revolutionary change in the understanding of self, nation, and literature. By shifting the focus from text to reading, and from ideology to praxis, this paper reconfigurates the very notion of cosmopolitanism by problematizing certain premises that shape its understanding in western academia.