"Dying Words", by Yi Sang
Hello! My name is Adelina Pinzaru and I am student of English and Korean Literature from Romania. I am curently studying in South Korea, on a government scholarship. The literary work which I chose to review for this contest is the short story “ Dying words”(종생기), by Yi Sang.
Yi Sang is one of Korea’s finest writers and a representative of the modernist and avant-garde movement in Korea. In my opinion, Yi Sang can also be considered a precursor of existentialism in Korean literature. I have first noticed this tendency in another of his short stories, namely “Wings”, but I believe it is more prominent in the story I am going to discuss. 
“ Dying words” is a fascinating read which embeds both modernist and existentialist aesthetics, infused with the sensitivity and fervour, which characterize Korean literature in the 1920s and 1930s. 
At first sight, “Dying words” seems a nostalgic tale about the twilight of life and the loss of love. The characters involved are the narrator and a woman, named Jeonghui. And this is the point where any convention vanishes. Yi Sang can be regarded as a master of the tragic-ironic fictional mode, if we apply the classification made by Northrop Frye, in "The Anatomy of Criticism". In “Dying words”, the author manages to create irony, by naming the narrator after himself and by constantly criticizing him, for instance, by calling his work “petty literature”. Yi Sang, the narrator, leads an empty life and goes through an existential crisis, as he starts to view the act of living as an unbearable and suffocating burden. The human condition is also downgraded in his eyes, as he states “ The truth is, humans are mimicking monkeys. Surprisingly, death is not seen as the cathartic great escape, but as devoid of meaning and worthless as life itself. 
Thus, the story becomes a vehicle for the expression of his frustrations and inner turmoil. The narrator’s angst is further amplified by the attitude of his lover, Jeonghui. She is unfaithful to him and although she claims that her relationship with a man named R. is over , she continues to receive letters from him. Further into the story, it is revealed that she was involved in prostitution, an element also found in “Wings” .
The order of the events related to Jeonghui is not chronological, as they appear as scattered fragments of memory. A sense of melancholy surfaces at this point, when the narrator identifies himself with autumn, while she is compared to the “spring thaw”. But he chastises his own feelings when he says that “It is so easy for me to die in dimness, anesthetized like a butterfly that was initially heading for a mountainous forest but got stuck in a honey jar of emotions.”
The “dying words” are not over yet, as Yi Sang explores a variety of other themes, such as morality and the human condition, in this exquisite and most enthralling work of literature, both ironic and wistful, filled with poetic images. It is an essential read, which will have a lasting impact on anyone who tries to grasp its profound meanings. 
Thank you for your attention!

Note: All the photographs used for the purpose of this video belong to me, except for photos 2 and 3, which are the property of Wikipedia and the National Library of Korea, respectively.
Soundtrack: Erik Satie- Gymnopedie no. 3

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