Publication Date

June 2011


The influence of Chinese and Japanese language and literature on Korea has been significant. The influence of Western notions of the modern nation-state in East Asia has also been significant. All of these influences collided in Korea. Through translation, the foreign is made comprehensible, but it is also changed and may be misunderstood. Through the process of translation, the influence of one language upon another is often underestimated, misappropriated, or hidden. The best literature attempts to reveal and transcend these hidden or unconscious dimensions. The importance of understanding the process by which such underlying influences impact culture, especially as forms of resistance and as asserting one's unique identity, may also, unfortunately, be underappreciated. Languages compete when put into the service of nation building. Writers such as Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) tried to negotiate, resist, and make sense of this new and highly competitive landscape. The collision between multiple national languages may cause an exclusive nationalism. However, if we can hypothesize that the resistance of a national language is not directed to the (language of) outside but rather to all kinds of homogenized (language) space, we can consider that a national language applies the power of resistance to that homogenized space which is based on nationalism. This kind of literary resistance, which can also be named self-negation, is primarily related to the capacity to allow the Other to exist within oneself. This is the process in which the particularity formed through its resistance to a universality forms another universality: namely, the process of appropriating universalities. Literary language is generated and flourishes in the process of such de-homogenization. Literature, by means of deconstructing the oppression of a universality, receives the Other as a force for reconstructing what yet may become another universality, thus building up a field where multiple universalities are contested. In Yi Kwang-su's bilingual way of writing, I will try to trace an example of the literature that built up such fields beyond both ideas of "Korean" and "modern."

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.