With this number, the eighth in the series, our publication
begins its third year. We would like to express our gratitude to the Korean
Culture and arts Foundation, especially its Chairman Moon Kodk-su and its
Secretary General Kim Kwang-in, for their constant support without which
the series would not have seen the light of day. we must also thank the
Korea Foundation for having undertaken to mail copies to such a large variety
of institutions and libraries across the world. We are also very grateful
to our readers, who have been most generous in welcoming the appearance
of this new series.
In selecting the writers and works to publish, we always
try to keep a balance between various schools and in this issue again we
publish translations of works from the two main sides, usually seen in
terms of 'social' or 'realistic' as opposed to 'pure' or 'aesthetic' although
it may very well be true that, in the final account, all these qualities
are present in any worthwhile work of literature. Equally important, we
try to include works from the Japanese period, from the War and immediate
post-war period, and from recent years.
Among early writers of modern Korean fiction, Hyon Chin-gon
stands out as one of the fathers of Realism. In his "A society that Drives
you to Drink" (1921) we find a powerful evocation of the hardships endured
by Korean women in th Japanese occupation, when education was largely denied
them. The story is about the difficult transition from the old Korea to
a modern form of society. His work is strongly realistic, yet not without
its own intense lyricism.
The story "Superfluous Men", which was awarded the Tongin
Prize, is set in the intense poverty of post-war Korea. The author lived
for many years in exile in Japan and composed brilliant sketches of Korean
life in those years. Here too we find the necessary combination of art
with a portrayal of reality.
Im Chol-woo's work "With Her Oil Lamp, that Night" is
set in the same period and is remarkable for its portrayal of affection
in the midst of pain. His tale has an almost archetypal theme of death
and rebirth, as it strives to find reasons for hope comfronted with the
ideological divisions of Korea.
Poetry is, by its very nature, lyrical but still Korean
Poetic circles have known fierce and sometimes bitter debate about the
proper articulation of the social and the aesthetic. In this issue we have
translations of poems by Pak Mok-wol, the founder of Korean Imagism in
whose poems nature is often evoked with lyric simplicity. The more modern
poetry of Yi Su-ik is written within that same Imagist tradition, although
with perhaps a greater complexity in its exploration of differing levels
of experience. By constrast, the poems of Kim Kwang-kyu are strongly marked
by humour and have a lightly satirical touch that is rare in Korean poetry.
In this issue we at last include a masterpiece of modern
Korean drama, Lee Gun-sam's "A New Common Sense" which has been produced
many times since its creatio in the 1960s. In it the first comic dramatist
of modern Korea holds up to mockery the materialism of the 1960s, with
a series of characters all intent on achieving their goals in society by
fair means or foul.