MYKOLAS ROMERIS UNIVERSITY
INSTITUTE OF HUMANITIES
ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES AND THE SECOND FOREIGN LANGUAGE
READING THE CITY IN MODERN KOREAN WRITINGS
Assoc. prof. dr. Lora Tamo?i?nien?VILNIUS, 2019
OBJECTIVES AND METHODS .5
CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERN LITERATURE IN KOREA 6
FORMATION OF MODERN KOREAN LITERATURE …7
ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF WRITINGS 8
Korean writings have always been affected by an influence of the environment and historical events surrounding Korea. Especially in the case of modern Korean literature which was stimulated by liberation from difficult historical occurrences and influenced by rapid development and growth of the city caused by industrialisation. As the formation of the city has left a profound mark in modern Korean writings it allows the readers of those writings to feel, see and understand certain qualities of the city while reading such literature. Also, as the concept of a city and modernity is closely related to present-day people as the rapidly changing world is becoming more urban, it quickly garners great interest for being a complex subject which conveys numerous points and encourages deep thoughts about the relation of people and their modern surroundings. Since the topic is related to modern day human struggles and various troubles that raise ideas about the mind of a human who lives in the surroundings of a city, it is quick to provoke thoughts of the readers and encourage analysis of the given content. Therefore, the topic attracts a lot of interest as it shows different aspects of modern life in society and especially what effect it has on the mental state of the people who are living there.
Regardless whether it is in real life or in literature, the city is first and foremost a setting which can be viewed as an influence from several perspectives and in this paper one of the intentions is to reveal not only how Korean literature itself was influenced by industrialisation, but also how the appearance and development of the city influenced people, their thoughts and behaviour, what mark was left on them by the city, what problems it created. In the analysis it will be attempted to answer questions such as how is the city portrayed in modern Korean literature? How are characters influenced by the city and vice versa? Also how are the relationships of people living in the city affected and how does the city influence their feelings? One of the aims of the paper is to understand the link between the city and modern Korean writings, as well as ponder on the effect which it has on people. Additionally, how the city depicted in modern writings influences the human psychology and the choices which people make while surrounded by the modern environment.
In order to achieve set aims it is important to overlook the history of modern Korean literature before discussing and analysing modern literature writings themselves, in order to be able to understand the characteristics and formation points of modern Korean literature and grasp the concept and the ideas behind the writings which were chosen to be analysed and interpreted. Therefore, such parts as the history and important points of formulation of the modern literature will be looked at in the paper as well and their significance will be noted. It will be seen how historical events of the country influenced the evolution of Korean modern literature and what effect it had on the mind of people.
Additionally, in order to disclose more about the said topic after looking over how the modern Korean literature came to be several themes of said literature will be disclosed in the analysis, such as estrangement, loneliness and alienation. All of said themes come up as prominent in the writings and show how the minds and behaviour of the characters are influenced by the surroundings of a city that they are in.
One of the chosen writings which will be looked at and analysed in the paper is a modern Korean short story written by author Kim Seungok and titled Seoul-1964-winter. In this short story the isolation of characters from the urban world is a leading topic. An oppressive unwillingness to be a part of society will be noticed as a result of the character alienation which is why the writing is fitting for an analysis of the ideas for the paper.
OBJECT OF THE PAPER
Modern Korean writings which were chosen to be analysed.
OBJECTIVE OF THE PAPER
To overview the history of modern Korean literature in order to understand how it developed and why the city is an important part not only for the creation of the modern writings, but also for the creation of the characters in the writings.
Additionally, to examine different aspects of the city in modern Korean literature and discuss what significance the city has on the portrayed characters as well as what problems it causes.
TASKS OF THE PAPER
Overview the formation of modern Korean literature and features by mentioning how the city influenced writings.
Analyse chosen modern Korean writings and show how the characters in the writings reflect the effect which the city has on them through their actions and feelings.
Conclude the analysis and findings.
METHODS OF ANALYSIS
The procedure of writing the paper and the methods for writing which were used are analysis of modern Korean literature along with interpretation of content based on understanding.
CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERN LITERATURE IN KOREA
The categories and characteristics of modern Korean literature vary according to how they define modernity as the historical condition on which modern literature is based on. Modern Korean literature started developing in the 19th century with the fall of the traditional understanding of society. Even though the process of historical development for modern Korean literature could be put into a brief time span of just a century, it is still generally divided into several stages. Firstly, the literature of the enlightenment era, then the literature from the Japanese era of colonialism and finally, the literature of the divided era. The development of modern Korean literature is an important sign of identity for Korean people as it represents their liberation from oppression after the historical sufferings which they had to face as well as the dividing of the Japanese era of colonialism. Since the 19th century when modern Korean literature started to develop there were various social changes coming into play, such as reform and civil right movements. During those changes, Korean modern literature had begun to represent a new principle of value of life for Korean people. With the transformation of the literature style, the people gained a new sense of spirit. However, such style of new modern Korean literature was limited due to Japanese invasions. The rights and possessions of Korean people were beginning to be deprived and it became hard for Koreans to maintain a sense of identity. Nevertheless, even with interferences, the literature was able to hold its ground as a strong foundation of national spirit. It formed a new way of understanding surroundings, which would show how people are influenced by what is happening around them. After Korea was liberated from the Japanese oppression in 1945, it served as a new opportunity to redefine literature as the current literature was filled with painful experiences and tragedy due to historical division and chaos caused by war. There was a realisation that literature should not only be there to define all the terrible things which have happened, but also to be able to encourage self-awareness of people influenced by history and changes which were coming after liberation.
FORMATION OF MODERN KOREAN LITERATURE
After the period of historical suffering had ended modern literature in Korea began to form more rapidly. Along with the cities which were developing and growing, the newly formed modern values begun to be implemented in literature as well. Therefore, based on the observation of people and their behaviour, modernity was starting to get incorporated in Korean literature writings. The modern literature was first of all shown in newspapers and magazines and it carried on into poems and short stories, later on novels and other writings as well. Old ideas and values which seemed wrong and oppressing were being corrected. An importance of reflecting the behaviour and emotions of people based on their surroundings became increasingly important. Industrialisation was slowly changing the country and the new modern movement influenced not only how literature was viewed, but also how it affected people and their understanding on a deeper level.
ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF MODERN KOREAN WRITINGS
SEOUL 1964 WINTER
The first writing which was chosen to be analysed and interpreted is a short story titled Seoul-1964-winter, written by a Korean novelist and screenwriter Kim Seungok. The writer became an instant success right after publishing his first works as the works resonated with people. Kim Seungok is known for being observant about social constraints and struggles and that is also transferred into his writings, which often represent the human inability to break free from social constraints of a system. The short story Seoul-1964-winter was the authors most successful writing which obtained a lot of attention. That is due to the fact that this writing represented the feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness and loss occurring as a result of industrialisation in Korea and clearly depicting emptiness, alienation and loneliness which the people living in the city are often forced to experience. An image of an uncaring society trapped in their own minds amid modernisation can be recognised in this modern writing.
In the short story written by Kim Seungok Seoul is presented as it was during the winter of the year 1964. The things which will be remembered by the people who spent their days in Seoul during that time are described and create the setting and the feeling of the surroundings in the city. The descriptions of the city through the expressions of the characters allow the readers of the short story to understand the general feeling of the environment and helps to immerse themselves in the writing.
The story itself is centred around three men and it begins as two of those men meet at a tavern and exchange introductions. Right from the start it can be seen that the men do not care about one another as even their introductions are dull and exchanged in an uninterested manner. As they do not care for what another is thinking or saying, they do not have much to talk about and at first their topics quickly dry out. After those brief introductions, we ran out of topics. I just drank for a while until I came up with something to say. (Kim Seungok, 3rd paragraph) Even when the men finally think of some topics to discuss with each other, they are superficial and do not make much sense. However, when the turn comes to talk about themselves, the men are eager to express what they are feeling which shows that they are lonely and want someone to hear them out as they have kept what they felt inside and had no one to say it to, but even so they are not interested in what the other is saying and only want to get rid of their own loneliness and heavy minds. Old memories, either sad or happy, let people reminded of them brag. (Kim Seungok, 10th paragraph) It does not matter whether their memories which they want to share are joyful or upsetting, the only point is that they want to let other people know, to be able to say what they are feeling or thinking of to someone and not just keep the feelings inside, which often happens due to the city being a lonely place. One of the characters talks about his first time living in the city. He expresses his frustration and loss of faith which was caused by it. And that shows that the city is an environment filled with pressure and it can overpower a person and easily influence what they are feeling. Lonely people of the city also try to find connection even in small things and in the case of the story, even in shadows. The enviable is, above all, the lights shown in windows of buildings at night or should I say the people walking in that light. (Kim Seungok, 11th paragraph) As the character is lonely, he found comfort even in seeing others walking in the city through reflections. As the story goes on, the men continue talking and they bring up such details which only people who are outcast and lonely would remember. The characters talk about how many lights there are in certain parts of the city and which ones of them are not lit. Also, the exact number of people which were at a bus stop the same day and how many of them were of what age and gender. As even such details are noticed it is not hard to realise the loneliness which the character experiences in order to notice and remember such things. The men start to become friendlier through sharing mutual experiences and they finally start to address deeper topics.