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Korean short fiction from the liberation period, 1945-1948 Stevenson, Joel R.

Abstract

Over the years scholars of Korean literature have focused their attention on the formation of modern Korean literature in the early part of the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945). Lately much attention has been given to the place contemporary Korean literature takes in Korea literary history. Very little research has been done on the literature of the liberation (Haebang) period (August 15, 1945-August 15, 1948). With the lifting of the ban the South Korean government had placed on the works of literature from the liberation period by authors who went north, contemporary scholars in South Korea have begun the process of examining the literature produced during this largely forgotten period of Korean literary history. For this study I translated four works of short fiction written during the liberation period. The translated works are: "Fire" (Pul, 1946) by A n Hoenam; "Milestones" (Tojong, 1946) by Chi Hayon; "Constable Maeng" (Maeng sunsa, 1946) by Ch'ae Mansik; and "Before and After Liberation" (Haebang chonhu, 1946) by Y i T'aejun. These translations represent the works of writers who, for various reasons, chose to take on the social issues that were troubling Korea at the time of liberation. Some contemporary scholars have stated that Korean authors had little to write about during the liberation period. However, I have identified several major themes common to the short fiction of the liberation period and prove in this study that the writers of Korea had much to say during the liberation period. Themes include: the return of Koreans from overseas, whether from exile, forced labor, or conscription, and the loss of home that awaited them; collaboration; "self-criticism"; the hopes of a bright new future contrasted with the realization that nothing was going to change; and land reform and the plight of peasants.

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