Ch’oe Yun

Summary of Author
(From Brother Anthony of Taize)

Ch’oe Yun, born in 1953, is a writer of formidable intellect and stylistic versatility. In real life Professor of French Literature Ch’oe Hyon-mu of Sogang University, she utilizes many of the modern fictional techniques in her writing, such as mixing fantasy with reality, parallel time structure, multiple versions of an episode, and so forth. Her novella, “Yonder a Flower is Quietly Fading,” is rated as one of the finest stories depicting the devastation wrought by the Kwangju massacre, which was carried out by the military strongman Chun Doo Hwan in 1980 to tighten his grip on power by showing that any resistance against his rule would be ruthlessly dealt with. Like Kim Yong-hyon, she belongs to the generation of college students whose days were spent in the oppressive shadow of military rule. “The Soiled Snowman” looks ironically at the “heroes” produced by the resistance movement. The hero was a true hero while he put his life on the line to fight injustice, but he becomes corrupted by popular success and acclaim. Ch’oe, thus, exposes the germ of self-deception latent in all men. Another theme Ch’oe frequently explores is the national legacy. Most often it is the legacy of the ideological struggle that led to the division of the country and the Korean War, but sometimes it is also an older and a more traditional legacy-the ethical, intellectual and artistic heritage of the Korean ancestors. Ch’oe shows that though modern Koreans seem to have traveled far from their past, there is really no escaping from their national heritage and that they have to find meaningful and constructive ways of embracing their past.
“The Flower with Thirteen Fragrances” (1995) is a fable of modern times. The fairy-tale atmosphere of the story belies its serious message and satirical intent. A lonely youth and girl find each other and give birth to the modest-looking flower with thirteen different kinds of fragrances as the fruit of their union. The flower, having powerful medicinal properties on top of ineffable fragrances, becomes a national craze for a time, but man’s greed for money and fame kills the flower and drives its creators out of their territory and eventually to take their own lives. This jeu d’esprit should make Ch’oe Yun accessible to all readers who may hitherto have found her work overly intellectual and difficult.

Works Translated

Last of Hanako
The Grey Snowman (alternately titled The Soiled Snowman)
There a Petal Silently Falls (alternately titled Yonder a Flower is Quietly Fading)
The Flower With 13 Fragrances (
alternately titled The  Thirteen-Scent Flower)
These stories can be found in “The Last of Hanako” or “There a Petal Silently Falls”

Other Romanizations

Ch’oi Yun

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