This edition of Korean Literature Today is entirely devoted to work by women. There has long been a lively debate in Korean literary circles as to whether 'writers who are women' ought to be systematically distinguished by the use of special vocabulary from 'writers'(who are assumed to be men). There is still a feeling in certain circles that only men can write real literature! It ought to be obvious to all by now that this is complete nonsense; indeed, many would agree that in recent years Korea has produced far more outstanding literary works by women than by men. If we have decided to produce this special 'women-only' number, it is with the intention of paying tribute to some of the many women who have marked the last half-century of Korean literary history and so made this evolution possible.
Certainly, before 1945 there were very few recognized women writers; No Cho※n-myong was among the first, together with Mo Yun-suk. After 1945, Ch'oi Cho※ng-hu※i began to write about the difficulties experienced by intelligent women frustrated at every turn by domineering men. Few others followed these pioneers until after the Korean war and the beginning of industrialization. Then Park Hwa-so※ng began to publish, and Park Kyo※ng-ni . For the first time women no longer felt obliged to stay at home having children and doing housework all day long; quite soon Korea's educated women begin to formulate the challenges to male hegemony that formed the basis for the powerful women's movement and the feminism so active in recent years. It is hardly surprising that the first great women poets arose at this time: Kim Nam-jo and Hong Yun-suk, both of them represented here.
In the 1980s, the work written by women was mainly centered on concrete problems facing women in Korean society, often seen in terms of human rights and oppression, although with an element of regret for the loss of certain of those traditional values that had in some ways helped women play significant roles in the past. Park Wan-so※ is one of the foremost writers of this time, together with Oh Jo※ng-hu※i. More recently it seems that women writers increasingly explore the inner world of their female characters in a conscious rejection of the doctrinal social realism so strongly stressed by the men writing in the 1970s and 80s. The work of Shin Kyo※ng-suk is particularly interesting in this respect. Poetry, more even than fiction, naturally moves away from realistic modes, as the work of both Ch'o※n Yang-hu※i and Na Hu※i-do※k shows.
One major woman writer who had to suffer particularly from prejudice during her lifetime was Hahn Moo-sook. She died about five years ago; if she had lived, she would be celebrating her eightieth birthday. In special tribute to her long under-recognized genius, we are publishing one story by her in this issue. Others will follow.
In recent years, there has been increasing interest world-wide in works written by women. A new sense of universal sisterhood today brings together writers and readers, male and female, to explore long-neglected realms of feminine experience and sensitivity. Volumes such as Words of Farewell and Wayfarer translated by the Fultons have already made readers in the English- speaking world aware of the important works of fiction being written by Korean women. This issue of our review is offered as yet further proof of the strength and value of the writing, poetry and fiction, that women have produced in Korea in recent decades. We hope that readers will find much to admire and enjoy of course other works by women writers will figure in later issues.
With this issue, we reach the end of another year and complete the third volume of Korean Literature Today. We are deeply aware of the risks and challenges facing an undertaking such as this. We can only thank all the writers, translators, proof-readers, and printers for their hard work; without them nothing would be possible. We are especially grateful to the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation for their continuing support, as well as to the Korea Foundation, and to the committee and members of the Korean PEN Center. We would like to wish all readers a very happy and rewarding New Year.