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HAHN MOO-SOOK

 

Hahn Moo-Sook was born into a progressive yet very traditional old Korean family. She had a strict early education, which emphasized propriety and knowledge of the East-Asian classics. Hahn, whose artistic talent was discovered and nurtured from her early childhood, first pursued the career of a painter. An extended illness in her young adult age and her marriage in 1940 to Kim Jin-Heung, a banker from an extremely conservative family, forced her to switch to writing to satisfy her artistic desires. In 1941, she won first prize in a contest sponsored by a leading monthly magazine, Sinsedae, for a novel titled Tu※ngpul tu※nu※n yoin (A Woman with a Lantern). Soon afterwards, Hahn received first prizes in drama competitions with a one-act play, Mau※m (Heart) in 1943 and a four-act play,"So※ri kkot (Frost Flowers)" in 1944. In 1948, she received first prize with another full-length novel, Yoksanu※n hu※ru※nda (And So Flows History), in a competition sponsored by Kukche Sinbo, a daily newspaper. She won the Asia Foundationis Freedom Literature Award for a short story entitled "Kamjo※ngi innu※n simyo※n (Abyss)?(1957) and the Republic of Korea National Literature Award (Grand Prix) for her novel, Mannam (Encounter) (1986). The total literary work of Hahn Moo-Sook, collected in a ten-volume anthology (1992-1993), demonstrates the wide diversity of her literary activities, from novels and short stories to essays, criticism, public lectures, broadcasting, interviews, and travelogues. Her works in translation appear in five volumes, one of which is the much acclaimed Encounter (University of California Press, 1992).

 

Hahn Moo-Sook is known for her description of human dilemmas resulting from the conflicting worlds of consciousness and conventional reality. Critics have identified Hahn as a perceptive literary mediator, who sought harmony and balance between the contrasting forces, seeing human existence in terms of "dialectic interactions of seemingly binary opposites."Some others have noted how Hahn "accommodates the Western concept of sin within a dialectic binary opposites provided by Korean tradition," often with an "explicit presentation of the complementary nature and interchangeability of sin and sanctity."

 

One of the most traumatic experiences in Hahnis life was the tragic accident that killed her third child, a promising young medical doctor as well as a concert cellist whom everyone adored. Through this experience she met death in a most personal and intense way. She injured her back shortly after the funeral. Heart-broken, she lay paralyzed physically and mentally for a while. When she finally "came back to life," her literature seemed to show maturity that only such extreme experiences could bring. "Urisai modu※n ko※si (Everything Between Us)"(1971) is a heart-rending story told in a form of letter addressed to her departed son.

 

 

 

Everything Between Us

 HAHN MOO-SOOK

  

To the departed spirit of my beloved son Yonggi,

 

It is the season of grief and self-imprisonment, and I reflect upon a Buddhist saying, "Delusion is none other than enlightenment." Yet still I wander in ignorance and delusion. For endless days and nights, I am in this prison, enta