Modern Korean writers have for long been under strong pressure to be "realistic" in their works. The Realism in question usually involves the precise description and depiction of life in a world full of pain and frustration. One of the main reasons for the stress on realism prior to 1945 was the task of national liberation from Japanese domination, while the political and social situation in the Republic of Korea during recent decades has been one of almost constant repression and state control. Nationalism and various forms of ideology have demanded that writers portray the painful results of colonial or dictatorial rule as vividly as possible. 
The pain of the individual Korean has long been considered to be an icon of the pain of the Korean people as a whole, an instance of the collective han accumulated through generations. This native aesthetic lent itself easily to imported ideologies in which Social Realism was a means by which the oppressed classes could come to an awareness of their own alienation by the power of capital. 
One result of this pressure on writers to portray familiar situations of human pain has been to devalue the role of the literary imagination. Literature has at times been treated as merely a means of social documentation. Such literal minded writing has little in it that can interest readers outside of the place and time in which it was composed. 
All over the world, writers have been challenged by pain to reflect on the meaning or absurdity of human existence. In this third issue of our review, we offer translations of works by Korean writers who have not been content to depict scenes of everyday life realistically. Each of this number's writers has confronted the question of life's apparent absurdity and responded in ways that yield a literature of universal appeal. 
The fiction of Yi Ch'ong-jun in particular is sure to prove of interest to readers eager for works in which the writer's imagination transcends mere reality in an evocation of life's absurdity. Other works of a similar kind by Yi Hyo-sok and Kim Yu-jong reveal a world of fantasy often insufficiently recognized. The poets represented in this issue, Pak Tu-jin, Ku Sang, and Hong Yun-suk, have brought their Christian faith to play on the riddles of pain and absurdity. Each in their own way has created a poetic world pointing to the hope of meaning that is glimpsed beyond the chaos and pain of the present moment. 

December 1996 

Lee Tae-dong 
Brother Anthony