Many Koreans traveling abroad find themselves being asked, quite politely, by kindly-intentioned people: "Excuse me, but are you Chinese or Japanese?" When they explain that they are Korean, quite often the questioner looks confused, and may even venture to ask, "But is that different?" Despite all that has happened in recent years, Korean identity, the culture and history of our land, are still unfamiliar to many westerners. 
Is Korea different? Our answer, of course, is a resounding "Yes!" and the main reason for this series of publications is to help people in the outside world who are interested in literature to discover just how specific our Korean literary culture is. 
Literature is the deepest expression of the inner structure of history. Although the great works of world literature rise above the particularities of time and place, no work can come into being except in a particular place at a particular time. The specific history of Korea underlies and gives birth to the works of literature that we are concerned to translate and communicate here. 
Only what a history! There can be few countries that have undergone so many varieties of suffering. If modern Korea is still coming to birth, the birth pains have lasted for at least a century now, with the collapse of the Yi Dynasty, the Japanese colonial annexation, and then the tragic events of the Korean War, and the following period. 
In this second number of our review, we offer works by a number of writers which reflect the terrible suffering experienced at the time of the Korean War. In particular, this issue highlights the work of Hwang Sun-won, but the reader will also note the tale by Lee Bom-son and the continuation of Park Wan-so's "The Naked Tree".  
After the Korean War, the Republic of Korea embarked on a process of urbanization and industrialization which brought about immense transformations of society. The emphasis on materialism and the lack of concern for the simple people who suffered during these years provoked many important works of literature. In this context, the story "Counterfeit" by Kim Jun-sung represents a highly imaginative response to the prevailing mammonism. Poems by Chong Chi-yong, Kim Ch'un-su, and Shin Kyong-rim are representative of the best poetry of those years of pain. 
Suffering as such has no value and mere evocations of intense suffering, even in literary form, quickly become intolerable. Works arising from a history of pain can only endure and be valued if they suggest to the reader something of the ways in which some trace of human dignity remains even in times of apparent despair. If modern Korean history has been marked by unmatched pain, perhaps the literature resulting from it will prove to be a source of unmatched hope in essential humanity. The reader must be the judge. 
To end on a practical note: some readers have commented on the inconsistent rendering of Korean names in the first issue. We were aware of this problem, but much of the material we used was reprinted from elsewhere and we did not feel it would be correct to change the method of transcription employed by the original writer or editor. New contributions normally employ some form of simplified McCune-Reischauer. We would value readers' comments on this or other aspects of the publication, which is a strictly non-commercial enterprise. 

October 1996 
Lee Tae-dong 
Brother Anthony