The Translator says —
I think the recent re-serialization on the Internet by established authors is “merely the literary elite finally catching the tail of the internet beast and trying to ride it for advantage.”
Some background information to support my opinion: Korea’s serialized novels on newspapers began with the idea of educating the public. Or, rather, inspire them to awaken their senses and pride of being a Korean. Such was an essential campaign that naturally leads to liberalization from the unlawful Japanese regime.
When Korea became liberated, however, the original intention of educating the public slowly lost its purpose because the main enemy and their oppression was no more. True, the commies soon took the place, but North Koreans are, after all, our own people. Serialization started to lose its goal, and succumbed to popular novels that dealt with lowdown subjects that sold well.
Intermittently, the serialization came back to life (hence your claim of its role in democratization is dead right) when important events took place, such as military coup d’etat, student movements, city redevelopment plans (the Dwarf) and labor demontrations, etc… With the ebb and flow of these events and the subsequent rise and deterioration of serialized novels, the serialization became bi-polar in its character: sex and violence novels printed on sports newspapers and heavy and serious works on reputable newspapers. Among those who published some important work is Park Wan Seo, whose work you are reviewing.
Still, the primary intention of how it all started (instilling national pride for liberation) became no more, for at least a couple of reasons. First, the time has changed as we (some of us) have progressed from the supersonic era, to the age of information super-highway. Through time, serialized novels became ineffective method to instill national pride. People want things quick and an instant manner. Succinctness has become a merit. Bite sizes have become the norm. Drawn out serialization is now for housewives who watch Korean soap operas. Second, the role of inspiring national pride has turned its focus on shedding a critical light on contemporary issues, i.e. military dictatorship in the 80s and the financial crisis in the end of 1990s. This happened because, well, Korea is no longer under the Japanese occupation. You can’t focus on a target when the target disappears. Losing the focus and staggering with the burden of punctual writing, serialized novels lost the appeal they once enjoyed. In its place came pictorials. The military dictatorship govenrment was stern on censorship when it came to serialized novels, but it was rather lax for some reason for pictorials. Taking advantage, pictorials shed critical light on numerous domestic issues for which the public yearned. This is well documented in the recent (still running?) exhibition of Korean comics and pictorials in Seoul. So, now, cartoonists took over the job once assigned to elite writers, and they have done so well in a 2 inch X 2 inch space. Wasn’t a picture supposed to tell a thousand words, so to speak?
Meanwhile, what did the established authors do? Not much. Some kept on writing books and others taught writing in Universities. Some who had been critical on politics and corruption got into politics themselves and turned conservative. The spirit of serialization was nothing in the newly found economic status Korea enjoyed. This was in the 1990s.
Then, under their very noses, something strange started to happen: The Internet. Common people began using the internet to publish their own stories, however amatuerish they were. Mostly fantasy stuff (more sex and violence and less literary work), but they began taking advantage of their new medium. Slowly, a truly democratic serialization of novels began forming. No one paid them to do it. People just began writing.
Established writers who may have begun as critics of existing powers now occupied the power seats themselves, and they did not even turn their eyes to internet serialized novels. They considered the new genre as cheap, worthless, next to nothing doodling. No one really saw the possibilities or the democratization movement associated with it. If they saw it, they did not think it would be big one day.
Now it’s quite big. Those who sold many books before are not doing so hot. Those who entered politics became the subject of public criticism themselves.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Hop on the bandwagon!
Ahhhhh~ my son is tugging at my side because he wants to be tugged in….. Gotta go, but you get the gist…