Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture, vol. 8 (2015)

Editor’s Note
David R. McCann, ix

Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture Volume 8, 2015

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
Once again, readers will discover a rich and varied array of contemporary Korean literary and image work in the current issue of Azalea journal. We celebrate the 100th anniversary of the births of two of the twentieth century’s great Korean writers, Midang Sŏ Chŏngju, the poet, and Hwang Sunwŏn, the short story and novel writer. Periodically, as the cultural, political, and historical tides in Korea have fallen and risen only to fall and rise again, these two writers have been lionized, denigrated, taken as emblems of Korea’s literary capabilities and accomplishments, or set to the side as passé, out-of-sync, politically unacceptable, or just too old to matter. Yet readers will find a rich array of reflections on these two writers and examples of their literary accomplishments. May you savor and treasure. Let us resolve to keep these writers central to our understanding of the terrain that Korean literature traversed in the twentieth century and to comprehend how much it would lose if it did not value, even treasure, these and others in the twenty-first.



Writer in Focus: Lee Eyunkee


Translator’s Note
Tahee Lee, 1

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
Lee Eyunkee, or Yi Yun-gi as published in Germany, is admittedly better known in Korea for his translations and non-fiction works on Greek and Roman mythology than his works of fiction or essays. This, however, does not reflect the emphasis he placed on, or the time and effort he poured into, writing fiction. In one of his essays, explaining his decision in 1991 to scale down his translating career and leave for the United States, he admits:

“Translating was important to me. But it wasn’t the most important work for me.

“I had debuted in 1977 as a writer, but since publishing my first collection of short stories in 1988, I hadn’t written a single proper novel. The trifling reputation and fairly good money I earned as a translator were holding me back by the ankle.” (“To Crawl the Bottom” from Writing That Makes Zorba Dance)

He confesses in the same essay that when he returned to Korea temporarily to receive the Dong-in Literary Award in 1998 he thought that the years he spent abroad “let him come back to being a writer.”


The Bow Tie
Lee Eyunkee and Tahee Lee, 5

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
Unless you live in a small country where there are only a handful of schools, it would be extremely rare for you to have a lifelong classmate, someone who went to the same school with you from elementary school through middle and high school all the way up to college. Yet I do have such a rare friend. His name is Pak Nosu. There are people in this world who give the school system too much credit and think Pak Nosu and I would be similar in our ways of thinking and behaving, but that is not true. A man does not stand alone. I think each man has a universal subconscious which preserves everything from his family’s household history to the history of humanity. That is why I consider education to be ancillary—like bridesmaids and groomsmen at a wedding—when a man faces the times by himself.

It was probably the times that made me a lifelong schoolmate of my friend Pak Nosu whose portrait I am now going to attempt to paint by stippling. An event considered coincidental in one era might turn out to be inevitable in another. The characteristics of an age often blur the line between chance and necessity. When Nosu and I were in school, it was considered a virtue for a man’s personal and social values to be completely consistent with those of others. In that age, men hesitated to step out of the bounds of shared values if they could help it. In that age, there was one sure formula:

Don’t get any ideas into your head!

If you were branded “the kid with ideas,” the road to recovery was going to be a long one. Imagination was a dangerous thing.




Notes on Contributors, 406




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