A couple of weeks ago in Incheon I paid way to much (10,000 won) for a book called “A Handbook Of Korea.” This was printed in 1982, and although the copy I picked up was missing a chunk of pages, it did have an intact chapter on Literature, which was wonderfully illustrated and gives a quick overview on the topic. It pretty much begins with this incendiary (but I think accurate) assessment of what culture has “done” to Korean literature:
Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, all had their effects, but theirs were of the negative quality — they taught self-control, forbearance, and even outright resignation. They did little to inspire positive self-expression, ventures into unfamiliar worlds, whether physical or spiritual, or for that matter, creative pursuits in general.
Regular readers will know that I blame (among other things) those three influences for a lack of agency in Korean fiction, and consequent lack of compelling heroes and plots that can render translations into English a bit ‘flat’ to Western eyes.
The jpgs I made of the chapter are below (Click on each page to open), and it is available as a low-quality PDF here (Anyone interested in higher quality can get in touch with me)