Thursday June 10,
6:00 -7:30 pm
The Powerpoint images as
a PDF file (changing at (**^**) )
In this presentation I would like to survey the history of the translation into English of Korean literature. We will see how most early translations, from the late 1960s until the year 2000, were made by Koreans wishing to make the world admire the quality of the poetry and fiction being written in Korea, and so enhance the prestige of their country, which was almost completely unknown to the West. Before 1970, only a tiny handful of translations had been published, and with minimal impact. Before 2000, despite many more being published, the impact remained minimal. It is only in the last few years that Korean fiction in translation (English and other) has become part of the world’s mainstream of popular fiction.
(**^**) The first translator of Korean poetry and fiction into English was James Scarth Gale (1863-1937). He was a prolific translator but had little success in finding publishers. Toronto University Library today houses a considerable number, 10 or 12, perhaps, of his completed translations that still await publication. He was able to find a publisher for a series of short tales by Im Bang (1640-1724) and Yi Ryuk (16th century), published as Korean Folk Tales in London by J.M. Dent in 1913. The title suggests a marketing strategy by the publisher, for these are not “folk tales” in the usual sense, but entertaining “yadam” stories composed by scholars to be read by scholars. Equally scholarly was Gale’s other published translation, Kim Man-Choong’s The Cloud Dream of the Nine (London: Daniel O’Connor, 1922) which was very beautifully produced but perhaps not widely read.
Apart from these two British publications, Gale’s published translations were limited to magazines produced in Korea with extremely limited circulation. Gale established and did most of the writing for the monthly Korea Magazine which was published from January 1917 until April 1919. Especially, a version of the “Tale of Chunhyang,” “Choon Yang,” was published in instalments in the Korea Magazine from September 1917 to July 1918. This was a translation of a prose “new novel” (shin-soseol) version of the older pansori text, Ok-jung-hwa (獄中花) Flower in Prison by the contemporary novelist Yi Hae-jo, which was serialized from January until July 1912 in the Maeil Shinbo daily newspaper, then published in the same year as a single volume. However, the Korea Magazine had a very limited circulation and few subscribers seem to have kept the complete series. Until I scanned and put the story (and the whole Magazine) online last year, almost nobody had access to it.
(**^**) Other translations by Gale, many of poetry, were also published in the Korea Magazine, and so remained unnoticed. The monthly Korea Mission Field had a somewhat larger circulation, but only mainly among missionaries in Korea. It was published from 1905 until 1941. James Gale published short installments of his History of the Korean People in the Korea Mission Field from July 1924 until September 1927 and they contained a considerable number of poems and other texts from Goryeo and Joseon periods translated by Gale. But again, the readership was severely limited. The complete text was only published in book form in 1972, again in Seoul.
Joan Grigsby, a Scottish poet, who spent some time in Seoul 1929-1930, rewrote many of Gale’s poetry translations from the History in her own style and they were published in Japan in 1935 as The Orchid Door. This was the first book-length publication of Korean poetry in translation, but it was read by very few people.
Gale can be taken as a token for what was to follow. His translations were effective and (relatively at least) accurate, his British publishers were well-established and reputable. However, there is little indication that his two books were much noticed. Once printed, they were given little or no publicity, were probably not reviewed, and once they went out of print they were not reprinted. Gale’s choice of works to translate was judicious. The Folk Tales were delightful and entertaining tales in many of which a simple, often young, low-class hero outwits ghosts and other evil creatures to come out on top.
(**^**) The Cloud Dream of the Nine is a remarkable work, probably the finest work of Joseon fiction, relating a man’s rise to fame and fortune over a whole lifetime, only for him to wake up on the last page and discover that it had all been a dream, an illusion. For some reason, the equally learned Anglican missionary Richard Rutt chose to retranslate the same tale as A Nine Cloud Dream and publish it inconspicuously in Korea in 1974, rather than simply reprinting Gale’s version. Last year, a new translation by Heinz Insu Fenkl was published as the second Korean title in the prestigious Penguin Classics series, finally making it an accessible part of “world literature.”
(**^**) As for his translation of the Chunhyang novel by Yi Hae-jo, this is intriguing because Gale usually disliked and despised the contemporary culture of Korea. He could not have realized and would not have cared that the writers of Shinsoseol were laying the foundation for the modern novel in Korea. He must simply have chosen it as being the most easily accessible text of a popular Joseon-era tale. He probably did not recognize the anti-Japanese subtext that a number of Korean writers exploited after March 1, 1919, according to which the beautiful, faithful beloved lady Chunhyang in her prison cell and her torments is Korea, while the wicked, corrupt and cruel magistrate is Japan, the miraculous return of the young hero an impossible collective dream of liberation.
(**^**) We now look back over the Japanese colonial era and see the emergence of modern Korean poetry and fiction, the fiction represented both by short stories and full-length novels, the former probably the majority. Novels were often serialized in newspapers or magazines, and were not always published as books after that. The most often mentioned names of writers of early modern fiction are Yi Kwangsu and Kim Tong-in. In poetry, Kim Sowol and Han Yong-un are today highly celebrated in Korea, yet each only published a single volume, at almost the same time around 1925, and they only became celebrated poets in Korea after Liberation and the Korean War. More significant as influencers of post-1945 modern Korean poetry were Yu Chi-hwan and Pak Mog-wol, together with Seo Jeong-ju.
Many of the most creative, radical literary figures went to live in North Korea after 1945, assuming that socialist ideas would produce a more humane society than American capitalism. Others were kidnapped northward or killed during the Korean War and this serious loss of talent had an extremely negative impact on South Korean writing in the decades after 1950.
(**^**) Literary historians today mention Kim Tongni and Hwang Sunwon as the most celebrated writers of fiction, Kim Su-yong and Kim Chunsu for poetry, prior to 1970. Apart from Joan Grigsby’s little book of poems, we have to look elsewhere for the first published volume of translated Korean poetry. That is a roneotyped collection entitled Songs from Korea by Y.T. Pyun, in an old-style tied-thread binding, dated 1936, which begins with 102 translated ‘old songs’ (Joseon-era poems) and then continues with a substantial set of Pyun’s own poems in English. The same book was later republished in a more modern-style edition printed in Seoul in 1948. Pyun Yung-Tai (Byeon Yeong-tae) was born in 1892, died in 1969, and served as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (1951–1953) throughout most of the Korean War before becoming Prime Minister from June 28, 1954, until July 31, 1955. In 1946 he also published Tales from Korea, an equally roneotyped collection of “folk tales” which he later developed into his Folk Tales from Korea (1952). He is thus the first Korean to translate older Korean poetry into English, and so far the only literary translator to have served as Prime Minister of Korea
Then in 1948 정인섭Zŏng In-Sŏb (Jeong In-seop 1905-1983) published his An Anthology of Modern Poems in Korea (대한현대 시 영역 대조집), with translations of 125 poems by 100 (today often forgotten) poets. Zŏng In-Sŏb graduated from the English Department of Waseda University (Tokyo) in 1929 and taught at Yeonhui College (Seoul) until 1946, while being active in several literary and academic associations. In 1946 he became a professor at 중앙대학, then during the Korean War, from 1950-1953, he taught Korean at SOAS in the University of London (UK) while earning his M.A. In 1954 he was one of the founders of the Korean PEN Club, from 1956 he was its first President, while teaching at SNU before returning to 중앙대학 in 1957, where he stayed until he retired in 1968. He then published his An Introduction to Korean Literature (1970), almost certainly the first such book in English.
Ten years after the Anthology, Zong In-Sob’s Modern Short Stories from Korea, (Seoul: Mun-ho Publishing Co., 1958) was the first collection of modern Korean short stories in English translation ever to be published. Charles Montgomery, writing in the LA Review of Books in 2016, wrote “Ten of its 20 stories focus on “love and marriage,” and the rest are characterized as “social stories.” “Most demonstrate a kind of depth and lack of didacticism that would soon almost vanish from translated Korean fiction. . . ..”
The first published volume containing English translations of works by a single modern, living Korean poet was the volume Before Love Fades Away (1957), containing poems by Cho Byung-Wha. This was soon followed by Selected Poems of Kim So Wol (1959), both volumes being translated by Kim Dong-seong (1890–1969) and published in Korea. Kim was a Korean comic artist, translator, journalist, and politician. He left for America in 1908 and studied journalism at Ohio State University. Kim returned to Korea in 1919 and was a founding member of the Donga-Ilbo. He was the Minister of Culture in South Korea’s first government in 1948.
Broad selections of Korean poetry, from the early periods until the present, soon followed. Peter Hyun published Voices of the Dawn: A Selection of Korean Poetry from the Sixth Century to the Present Day with John Murray (London) in 1960, the first western publication of translated Korean poetry. Peter Hyun was born in 1927 in what is now North Korea, then moved to the USA to study during the Korea War, before moving to Europe in 1952.
In 1961, another set of short fiction was published, Collected Short Stories from Korea edited by Chu Yo-seop (1902-1972) published by Korean PEN. Chu was educated in Shanghai after being imprisoned in Pyongyang during the March 1 Movement, then did an M.A. at Stanford, worked for newspapers in Seoul, taught in China and at Kyunghee University. He was one of the early Presidents of Korean PEN. He was a poet and novelist. Charles Montgomery has summarized the stories in this collection, finding them lively but rather less entertaining than the previous anthology. He quotes Chu as writing,
“Some Americans who read Korean short stories say that the reading of them create (sic) gloom and pain, for practically all the stories deal with hard and tragic lives. The editor acknowledges that they speak the truth. But to the Korean writers and readers, the gay or happy life seems unreal and unnatural, because for generations the Korean people have lived in poverty and have been mercilessly oppressed. Readers would feel offended if they found their reading devoid of the pain of the mind as well as of the body.”
Today, looking back, the main interest of Jeong In-seop and Ju Yo-seop’s anthologies is their focus on poets and novelists writing before 1960. In fact, a good number of the works they translated were written during the Japanese period. The writers’ names are often unfamiliar today, to readers of more modern Korean literature at least, and many of them were writing before the Japanese surrender of 1945.
(**^**) Peter Lee was born in Seoul in 1929, moved to the USA as a child and did all his studies in American schools. In 1964, Peter Lee published Anthology of Korean Poetry: From the Earliest Era to the Present with John Day of New York. Like Peter Hyun, he had spent his entire adult life outside of Korea. Peter Lee became one of the first professors of Korean literature, in Hawaii then in UCLA, and he went on to publish a considerable number of academic translations of mostly pre-modern Korean texts, which have made him one of the best-known and best-selling translators of pre-modern Korean texts.
At this time, almost the only westerners living in Korea with sufficient Korean skills to translate literature were missionaries. In 1971, the American Methodist missionary Edward Poitras published in Seoul Sea of Tomorrow, poems by the contemporary poet Park Tu-jin. In later years he published several other volumes, while his wife Genelle also became a translator of Korean short stories. Also in 1971 the more scholarly British Anglican missionary Richard Rutt was fortunate to publish his fine volume The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo with the University of California Press. Soon after, in 1974, The Irish Catholic priest Kevin O’Rourke, published Where Clouds Pass By: Selected Poems of Cho Byung-Hwa. It was only in 1983 that the well-known Bruce Fulton (former American Peace-Corps member) and his Korean wife Yun Ju-chan, living in the USA, published their first collection of short stories, Debasement and Other Stories. Each of these translators went on to produce a significant number of other books in the following decades, but apart perhaps from the Fultons, they found it very hard to attract good publishers and the books by the missionaries were poorly distributed.
Meanwhile, the great majority of published translations were works translated by Koreans, only sometimes with help from a “native-speaker” of English. Many of these translators were professors of English / American literature, who were rather too proud of their English skills to seek help.
(**^**) Until recently, western readers of Korean fiction in translation have often been turned off by the preponderant gloom, the lack of humor or suspense, and the tendency to assume that readers are familiar with every detail of traditional Korean history and culture. Clearly, the fiction was written with only (South) Korean readers in mind. It did not travel well. Certainly, there is a deep national trauma due to the oppressive Japanese regime, then the division of the Peninsula by outside forces and the ensuing ideological conflict and war. The Korean War was followed by a series of less-than-democratic regimes with a continuing policy of enforced industrialization and urbanization. Criticism and protest were not tolerated. The main concerns of worthy writers were assumed to be (1) national identity (2) individual human dignity. In school textbooks, short, accessible poems from the Japanese period were given pride of place as tokens of Korean national resistance, especially if the poet had been killed by the Japanese. Literature, critics felt, should be resistant or inspirational. As a result, poetry and fiction were not considered to constitute “light entertainment” but were supposed to be written with a “high seriousness” to promote good citizenship and noble humanity.
In the dreadful years of destruction, division and poverty after 1950, stories of people experiencing terrible suffering with dignity became the new literary norm, whether the setting was the Korean War or the newly built industrial cities. Humor and fantasy were not completely excluded, but they were little valued in themselves. Poetry was expected to be disincarnate, lyrical, full of traditional symbols or references to ancient legends or to the world of nature. Then, especially after the 1960 April; Revolution, Shin Dong-yeop, Kim Su-yeong and Shin Kyeong-nim gave a new impulse to socially resistant poetry, inspired by the sufferings of the poor, though their stance was not explicitly “socialist.” The preference for dark “documentary realism” and for stories about pain and alienation continued on into the 1990s, when women writers turned their attention to the solitude and alienation of married women living alone in apartments, often slowly going mad. There was little or no light relief. It could be thought that Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian” continued this tradition.
(**^**) The wish among Koreans to “globalize” Korean literature began with their discovery of the classics of Western literature, often through Japanese translations or in the English Departments of Japanese universities. The celebrated works of the Western canon, often poorly translated into Korean, did not seem so superior to the poetry and fiction being written in Korea, where certain contemporary Korean writers and their works enjoyed great prestige and popularity. However, it seemed clear that very few non-Koreans would ever master enough Korean to be able to appreciate Korean literature, therefore translation was the only way of bringing it onto the world stage.
Soon after the end of the Pacific War, a certain kind of Japanese fiction was promoted in the US by the American government as a means of transforming the American perception of the Japanese from the brutal, sadistic warriors of the past to sensitive lovers of sophisticated beauty, as natural enemies of the Soviet Union and allies of the West in the Cold War. The 1968 Nobel Prize awarded to Kawabata Yasunari (whose Snow Country was published in English already in 1957) was a shock for Koreans. The to them incomprehensible prestige enjoyed in the West by Japanese fiction (and movies) left Koreans feeling even more ignored and humiliated. They knew that in the West prestigious writers were part of each nation’s national image and they wanted Korea’s prestigious writers to contribute to Korea’s greater prestige, without realizing that what they as Korean readers responded strongly to might not have the same impact on people who had not shared Korea’s unique experience of trauma.
The most important single factor in creating a new bridge between Korea and the USA was the arrival in the mid-1960s of the first Peace Corps volunteers. While missionaries learned Korean in order to work in Korea, these young Americans went back home soon after they had learned at least a certain amount of Korean, taking with them (often) a deep affection for the country. Some then entered East Asian Studies departments and in due course became the first generation of professors of Korean Studies in the US, including Kathleen Stephens, David McCann, Bruce Cummings, Edward Shultz, Bruce Fulton . . . A new concern arose, since their students could not learn enough Korean to read difficult texts, therefore translations of Korean texts, both old and recent, were needed for classroom use. This was the first (small-scale) commercial reason for publishing translations from Korean in the USA and a few university presses took a lead. These books rarely reached a general readership. The Columbia Anthologies of Korean Poetry and Fiction were only published in 2004-5.
(**^**) Some basic statistics give a clear picture: Between 1970 and 2000, some 130 English translations of Korean poetry, fiction and (occasionally) drama were published. Of these, 95 were translated by Koreans, and over 40 were published in Korea. 53 of the total were poetry. 44 were anthologies with works by multiple authors. 63 were fiction (collections of short stories or full-length novels). It was not until 1979 that a full-length Korean novel was published, Ulhwa the Shaman by Kim Dongni, translated by Ahn Junghyo and published by Larchwood (USA), a press that went on to publish several other Korean novels in the following years. Before 2000, 36 full-length novels were published, most (20) of them in Korea.
(**^**) In the first 12 years of the 21st century, another 130 volumes were published. 60 of these were poetry. Nearly 100 of the books had at least one Korean named as translator/co-translator. By now, very few were published in Korea but almost none were published by a major commercial or university press. 18 were anthologies. 38 full-length novels were published.
In the 10 years since 2012, 73 more volumes of poetry and 130 more volumes of fiction have been published, most of the fiction being full-length novels published overseas. We will talk about this most recent period a little later.
(**^**) Attention to what is now known as “World Literature” began in countries where translation was more widespread than in the US or the UK. In France, for example, in the 1980s and 90s, Actes Sud began to publish small, pocket-book-size French translations of works from many countries, including Korean short stories and novellas, then later some full-length novels. In the 1990s, some good Parisian bookstores stocked those little books, but in a rather dark corner, on a shelf labelled “Corée,” close to “Chine” and “Japon.” The same was true in England. Korean literature was not expected to appeal to general readers, but only to specialists, if at all.
In England, the Harvill Press was founded after the war to publish translated novels from Russia and other East-European countries, mainly, and by other important European and international writers, such as Calvino or Durras. It built up a fine reputation. The owner, Christopher Maclehouse, one day felt an urge to publish a Korean title, since none were available anywhere. His wife, a French lady, duly read the Korean books published by Actes Sud and identified Yi Munyol’s novel “The Poet” as the most interesting. By a complex series of events I became one of the translators, obliged to work with a very difficult Korean professor. For the first time, a major western publisher had chosen a work and then commissioned a translation from the Korean. Previously it was always the translator who chose what was translated, then desperately sought for a publisher.
The book was published, and it was duly reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. But instead of being reviewed by a specialist in world fiction, they asked an academic expert in Korean Studies, Keith Howard, to write a review. His specialty is ethno-musicology, including Korean music and he admits to knowing nothing of Korean literature. The review, quite lengthy, was all about modern Korean history and ignored the novel entirely . . . .
Probably the most important turning-point came in 2011, when Knopf published Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim ( a New York-based lawyer whose mother, Yu Young-nan was an earlier translator). Knopf is a Big Name! Until then, almost all Korean titles had been published by small, unknown presses with no budget for publicity or bookstore distribution, or by university presses relying mainly on class-room use and automatic library purchases. At last Korean fiction was no longer seen as material for study but as material for the worldwide entertainment industry, just like movies, TV dramas, and (a little later) K-pop. Please Look After Mom was marketed in the West for general readers, especially members of book-clubs, being presented as a touching Asian family saga. It was not at all marketed as a “Korean” title, although the author’s identity made that clear enough. It was distributed, reviewed and publicized in the usual Knopf style, massively. There was a separate UK edition with a corrected English title, Please Look After Mother It did not sell millions of copies, as some of Knopf’s titles do, but for the very first time a translated Korean novel was treated just like any other appealing novel, whether translated or not.
The other major event for the translation of Korean fiction was the recognition accorded to Deborah Smith’s translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian by the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. Again, we find a touching Asian family saga, although darker and more clearly a study in social and psychological alienation. The fuss made by some pedantic Koreans about the somewhat free / inaccurate translation had no effect on international sales. In fact, The Vegetarian was the trailblazer for what was to follow. Korea had by this time begun to be an international household name, especially among the younger generations, thanks first to a series of very successful romantic TV dramas adored especially in Japan, South-East Asia and India, perhaps more than in the UK or USA, and then to the growing popularity of Korean movies, but above all to K-Pop music. In Korea literature, the troubled, problematic psychology of the main character in The Vegetarian was already a familiar motif, although certainly some readers wondered whether the novel was really worth so much praise.
(**^**) A New York literary agent , Barbara Zitwer, soon seized on the growing popularity among younger Western readers of psychological “thrillers,” as well as horror stories, science-fiction, and almost anything written by younger women, and was able to find important commercial publishers for a considerable number of Korean novels, mostly by younger female authors such as Bae SuAh, Sun-mi Hwang, Hye-young Pyun, You-Jeong Jeong, Cho Nam-Joo, Kim Soom, as well as Un-su Kim, and the older male Hwang Sok-yong. The name of Sora Kim Russell looms large among the younger translators producing this new form of Korean Wave.
Thanks to Barbara Zitwer, we have escaped from the nightmare decades in which a translator, having selected a novel or poet she liked and translated the work, desperately tried to find a “publisher” of any kind. Major companies like Knopf were inaccessible because they only deal with literary agents. We often turned to White Pine Press, Cornell East Asia Series, MerwinAsia, Homa & Sekey, or (worse still) Stallion in Singapore . . . . the books got printed, but that was about all. The Korean government has long tried to encourage the “globalization” of Korean writing, first through the 문예진흥원 Korea Culture & Arts Foundation, then through 한군문학번역원 LTI Korea, providing generous funding to translators once their work was accepted by a foreign publisher, as well as sending Korean writers overseas to speak and read at festivals. But that has had very little real impact.
But today, the tables have turned. It is not only K-pop and Korean movies that make the headlines, even Korean fiction is being translated, then published by major commercial presses, and embraced by readers in many countries as never before. Not all of it, of course, since major publishers can only publish a certain number of titles each year, and they only want to publish novels that they can market successfully. Korean writers have begun to understand that they have to be writing to entertain the world at large, especially the young, not only older South Korean readers. The younger translators now producing translations of popular novels and graphic fiction by younger Koreans can hope for more success, so long as the Korean writers are able to provide what is needed. Fiction today has to be entertaining, and different, has to speak to the world’s demanding young readers who do not care if a writer is famous in Seoul and Busan. Korean writers who write exclusively for a Korean readership do not need translators. Those who write for tomorrow’s world will be given the priority. If the writers do not write what is needed, the translators will labor in vain.
(**^**) To end on a personal note, since the Covid pandemic struck early in 2020 I have been translating contemporary Korean novels proposed to me by the agent Barbara Zitwer. Of the seven I have completed, only one has so far been taken by a major publisher. Yi Geum-yi’s “The Picture Bride” 알로하, 나의 엄마들will be published in October 2022. It all takes time! This tells the story of three young women from a remote Gyeongsang Province village who in 1919 set out to become “picture brides” marrying Koreans working in the plantations of Hawaii. Two find themselves married to men far older than they thought, while the main character discovers that her husband did not know she existed until she arrived, his father having acted without telling him in order to have a grandchild before he died. The three women end up working together, united by strong bonds of friendship. The last part moves to 1941, Pearl Harbor, when the daughter of one of the three discovers something surprising about herself.
Gong Ji-young is a popular but rather controversial writer. I have translated two of her novels, A Tall, Blue Ladder 높고 푸른 사다리, and The Open Sea 먼바다, in both of which we see how very difficult communications are between two people who claim to love one another. Gong is strongly Catholic, the first tells of a young brother in a Korean monastery who falls for the niece of his Abbot, despite knowing that she already has a fiancé in the US. Finally, their relationship comes to nothing, he becomes a priest. The novel evokes two major episodes from the Korean War, the Heungnam Evacuation and the years spent in the Oksadong prison camp in North Korea by a group of German Benedictine monks and nuns. The Open Sea tells of an older woman, a university professor, who visits New York and meets a man who, forty years before, she had loved but he was a seminarian and she only a high-school student, then suddenly he left for the USA. Reconnected thanks to Facebook, they are to meet and all the questions she still has about what happened forty years before come back amidst tension and confusion.
Kwon Jeong-hyeon is perhaps less well-known, even in Korea. the novel Blade and Tongue 칼과 혀 (already published in France) is set in Manchuria during the last days of the war. A Chinese prisoner, a cook is given the task of preparing special dishes for the Japanese Commander, whose main interest is the enjoyment of fine cooking. Various plot strands, including one involving a Korean woman, are interwoven.
JM Lee’s Broken Summer 부서진 여름 was only published in May 2021, the translation is already complete and it is currently being shown to publishers. A famous artist wakes one morning to find that his wife has left him, leaving a section of a novel she has written depicting him as a seducer of an under-aged girl. We return in flashback to the death by drowning 25 years before of the wife’s older sister. The artist’s father was imprisoned for her murder but doubts remain until at the climax all becomes clear and the artist acknowledges that he has been using and abusing his wife all these years.
Im Seong-sun’s Antarctic Mutiny극해 is the most violent novel I have translated. It is entirely set on a trawler commandeered by the Japanese navy during the Pacific War. The officers are Japanese, the crew Korean, Taiwanese and Filipino. The cruelty of the Japanese Bosun leads the Koreans to mutiny, killing all but one of the Japanese. The novel includes sodomy, cannibalism and multiple murders. Barbara Zitwer is afraid of it, it seems to me a very exciting read. Now I am working on the same author’s The Consultant 컨서턴트 which tells the adventures of a murder-planner.
These brief summaries of translated but not yet published recent novels serve to show that Korean fiction is no longer gloomy and nationalistic. It is as entertaining and imaginative, although often in grotesque and hair-raising ways, as any Korean movie, and shows that Korean writers have come a long way from the earlier nationalistic “documentary realism.” They are now fully “globalized,” so much so that translators and agents have to struggle to keep up with them.