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  • Editor's Note
  • April 2019 Young-Jun Lee

"High, clear, autumn sky" is a phrase often used to symbolize peace in Korea. When it appears in the first sentence of Hwang Sunwon's famous story "Cranes," included in the first volume of Azalea, it implies a contrast between the tragedy of the Korean War and the tranquility of the sky. Last winter in South Korea air pollution often reached such dangerous levels that the government warned people to stay indoors.

Last year, peace in Korea seemed imminent, thanks to cooperation between Trump and Kim, but now, with the subsequent failure of talks, that expectation has diminished. Still, perhaps because of that failure, it is very noisy in front of Seoul Station or at Gwanghwamun Square these days, where people gather every weekend to make their opinions known. This clamor can be seen as expressing Korea's disorder, or it can be seen as evidence of Korea's eagerness for change. Social energy in Korea is still very high. The same goes for Korean literature.

Recently, the number of translated Korean literary works and the quality of those translations have increased greatly. The Tale of Hong Gildong, initially introduced in Azalea 6 (2013), was published as a Penguin Classic in 2016. It is welcome news that this year Dream of Nine Clouds, first excerpted in Azalea in 2014, has joined the same prestigious series.

The Writer in Focus in the current issue of Azalea is Kim Kyung-uk. His works, known for being inspired by movies and [End Page 7] popular culture, fluctuate between virtual worlds and the real world. How the media environment shapes and is shaped by the Internet-technology generation of Korea is the timely and compelling theme of his writing.

Azalea 12 is rich in novels, and all five of these works will draw readers into the heart of current issues facing Korea. Three of these stories have won the GKL translation award. It is expected that the winners of this award will contribute greatly to the globalization of Korean literature in the near future.

Poetry lovers will discover a unique aspect of hansi poetry in the works of Kim Chŏng-hŭi. Kim Chŏng-hŭi is known mainly as a master calligrapher who developed the ch'usa style, and as a scholar of epigraphy, but Professor Hyong Rhew shows us why his poems are especially noteworthy. Many readers will find fascinating surprises in this selection. As the translator suggests, "No rest even after death if my poetic words do not startle the people," the catchphrase of the poet Du Fu, seems to have inspired the uncanny poems of Kim Chŏng-hŭi.

The Zainichi Special Feature was guest-edited by Professors Christina Yi and Jonathan Glade, who deserve Azalea's deep gratitude for collecting such strong essays and writing an excellent introduction. Our thanks also go to two anonymous reviewers for their meticulous comments that helped to improve all the essays in this section. Korea's relationship with Japan is still a volatile one. The issue of comfort women during the colonial period has not yet been solved, and the Dokdo sovereignty matter remains a hot potato. It is now generally believed that efforts at the civilian level will ultimately contribute to improving bilateral relations between the two nations, and academic studies are expected to play a foundational role. This special feature will help deepen understanding of those who have lived difficult lives as Koreans in Japan.

The photos of Koo Bohnchang, including the cover image, graciously wrapped around this volume of Azalea, provide rich [End Page 8] insights into what Koreans have been pursuing: simplicity. Readers will find that his pictures capture emotions connected with nature, people, and things in between, a feast of raw, natural images deeply rooted in Korean culture. May you enjoy pondering them. [End Page 9]



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