On 10 November 2012, the Fifth Biennial International James Joyce Conference in Korea took place at Chonnam University in Kwangju, an ancient city in the southwest of South Korea. It was effectively organized by Taeun Min, the president of the James Joyce Society of Korea. Most of the speakers were Korean, but there were some from Italy, China, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States, as well as four Americans working in Asia. The theme of the conference was “Hybrid Joyce.” As Robert Grotjohn pointed out, Korea has been compared to Ireland because of their tragic histories as colonies. The devotion to Joyce in Kwangju was inspiring, and the conference used the ingenious device of only having one session at a time, so attendees did not have to dash back and forth trying to figure out which session to attend.
Among the impressive presenters, Eishiro Ito spoke of Joyce’s relation to Haruki Murakami; Duncan McColl Chesney discussed truth in fictional autobiography; Ki Heon Nam examined the polarized political significance of potatoes and tea in Joyce’s works; Giovanna Vincenti traced Joyce’s relationship to the theater; and Homing Chang analyzed Joyce’s relation to Theodor Adorno. [End Page 601]
I delivered the keynote address on Joyce’s extensive parallels to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE, an experimental work by a Korean-American writer that questions memory, language, and identity. At one point, DICTEE meditates on the Kwanju uprising of 1980, in which soldiers from Korea’s dictatorship killed two hundred protesters, a turning point that led Korea to move toward democracy.
The most magnificent feature of the conference was Chong-Keon Kim, a robust octogenarian who made frequent and striking comments from the floor. Professor Kim had just published a complete Korean translation of Finnegans Wake, accompanied by a book of notes longer than the Wake. These works are available from the Korea University Press. [End Page 602]