The Proletarian Wave: Leftist Literature in Colonial Korea 1910-1945


Thursday, April 25, 2013, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Porté Seminar Room (S250), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Korea Colloquium

Sunyoung Park
Assistant Professor of Korean Cultural Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California

Sunyoung Park is assistant professor of Korean literature and cultural studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on the literary history of modern Korea, which she approaches from the varying perspectives of world literature, postcolonial theory, and transnational feminism and Marxism. She has just completed a book manuscript titled “The Proletarian Wave: Leftist Literature in Colonial Korea 1910-1945,” and she is also the editor and translator of an anthology of modern Korean fiction titled On the Eve of the Uprising and Other Stories from Colonial Korea (Cornell East Asian Series, 2011). Her current research interests center on fantastic imaginations in modern and contemporary Korean culture with focus on the political relevance of utopian fiction, sci-fi and cyber-fiction.

Chaired by David R. McCann, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature, Harvard University


During the 1910s and through the 1940s, Korea developed a vibrant and diverse leftist literary culture. Upon their initial introduction to late Chosŏn Korea, socialist ideas attracted the attention of local intellectuals, inspiring not only the Marxist writers of the KAPF (Korea Artista Proleta Federatio: 1925-1935) but also a few anarchist groups, a contingent of leftist nationalists, the coterie of socialist women writers, and other unaffiliated writers and critics. This talk will offer a brief historical outline as well as a critical reassessment of this broad literary movement. The central questions to be raised will concern all-important issues of appropriation as well as translation: How did the Korean leftist writers appropriate the doctrines of socialism for their use within their specific colonial historical conditions? And how did those doctrines translate within the context of a rapidly modernizing colonial society? My aim throughout will be to make a case for an often neglected and misunderstood historical cultural movement, demonstrating that the influence of socialism on modern Korean culture was more pervasive and fertile than has been generally assumed within subsequent anti-communist as well as nationalist critical paradigms.

The Korea Colloquium is generously supported by the Min Young-Chul Memorial Fund at the Korea Institute.

* Video available for view at: