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Images of man in postwar Korean fiction Chong-un Kim SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY THE purpose of this article is to discuss works of fiction produced during the postwar decades in Korea, but I feel that a quick review of some facts would be appropriate here. That is to say, an overview of some prominent and significant historical and sociopolitical facts will serve as a convenient introduction to the subject. I have no intention of getting involved in the touchy controversy over the relationship between literature and society, between the "intrinsic" and the "extrinsic," but I feel that such knowledge is useful in deepening understanding of the subject itself. Literature deals with the quality of life, and life is willy-nilly affected by society and history. Moreover, it is even necessary for us to have recourse to such knowledge at times—when the discussion is primarily addressed to those with different experiences, as is the case with this article. I. The Landscape The first and most epic event is the liberation of 1945. Though brought about gratis as an outcome of the termination of World War II, it was nevertheless a major historical change without equal in the long history of the country. It opened the floodgates, as it were, of history. It freed the country from the fetters of Japanese colonial rule and promised the long-sought national independence. These in themselves were important enough, and the jubilation and excitement that took hold of the country—our version of Sturm und Drang—is understandable. What gives ultimate importance to the liberation as a historical event, however, lies in what it has brought in its wake to the Korean people: the tragic territorial division. Surely, the path of nation-building would not have been 2 KIM easy to tread without the division of the country, but this fatal division made the path even thornier and more perilous, throwing the country into a welter of unnatural tension, turmoil, and, at one point, bloodshed. The division was the price, as it were, of the liberation. In this sense, the liberation was not gratuitous, after all. The celebrated battle between the "pure-literature" camp and the tendentious literature camp that took place in the immediate postliberation years paralleled the larger battle that was being waged between the two opposing ideological camps. A people with practically no ideological knowledge, except perhaps the ideal of Wilsonian national selfdetermination , was suddenly thrown into the vortex of a chaotic war of ideas. Thus the establishment of separate governments in the north and the south, with its attendant sociopolitical developments, was in a sense a preparation for the larger, more deathly, clash—a lull before a tempestuous storm. In spite of this manifest rivalry, the south was hopelessly unprepared against northern aggression. The bloody fratricidal war that broke out in 1950 was soon augmented by the armies of other countries. The swift and sweeping pendulumlike shifts of frontline battles ravaged the cities and the countryside alike and laid waste the entire land. A sense of doom reigned, and survival became the paramount concern. The uneasy truce that ended the three years of bitter and devastating strife did not alter this in any essential way. Nothing was achieved except universal destruction and uprooting, physical and spiritual. The physical scar of the war would heal with time, but the spiritual trauma was less likely to follow suit. Thus the war left indelible marks on the consciousness of the people. The horrors and nightmares of the war were replaced by dire postwar economic conditions and moral confusion. An ineffectual and corrupt government characterized the rest of the 1950s. In spite of the large amount of U.S. aid ($1.8 billion over the years), economic recovery was slow. The cleavage widened between the few who were fattened by sponging off foreign aid and the masses. This together with the accumulated dissatisfaction directed against the autocratic regime culminated in the April 19 uprising of 1960. Indeed, the early 1960s was a period of unprecedented political turmoil . In the April uprising, students forced the late strongman Syngman Rhee to step down. A new government was formed by election, but it was toppled by the...


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