A century ago, Park Byung-soon, Sohn So-hee, Yoon Dong-ju, Lee Ki-hyung, Cho Hyang, and Choi Seok-doo were born. One hundred years later, only Yoon Dong-ju is widely remembered by the public.
The bitter truth about literary figures is that only a few become legends and are remembered for generations to come, while others are left in the shadows. As well as we know Yoon Dong-ju, we feel unfamiliar with the other five.
But there will be opportunities to discover more about these unknown writers next week thanks to a centennial event organized by the Daesan Foundation, which will host a symposium as well as a cultural event for readers to enjoy.
On April 27 at 10 a.m. at the Kyobo Building in Gwanghwamun, a symposium will be held all day on the theme "Violence of the ages and the path of a writer."
The symposium will begin with a general discussion on the topic and then touch upon each of the writers' lives and their works in detail. The first session will explore Lee Ki-hyung's poems which are characterized by his longing for the unification of the two Koreas. The second session will explore poet Cho Hyang's "hybrid adventure" while the third will discuss poet Choi Seok-du's "poem of belief" and himself as a "poet of action." The fourth session will explore novelist Sohn So-hee's self-punishing women in her novels and the breakdown of patriarchy.
The final three sessions will be dedicated to poet Yoon Dong-ju, one of Korean's most beloved literary figures. In the first part, a discussion will take place about the poet's inner side, while in the second part they will explore the mutual text of his poems. In the last, they will discuss perceptions about Yoon Dong-ju in Korean society based on a survey held in March.
"The commonality of these six writers is that they were born in the same year. They experienced the Japanese occupation when the Korean language was banned from use and disappeared from textbooks. They experienced the division of the country through the Korean War. They experienced modernism, the rise of the modern girl," Kim Eung-gyo, poet and professor at Sookmyung Women's University, said at a press conference Thursday. He is one of the eight presenters at the symposium.
"Koreans know Yoon Dong-ju so well they could easily name a few of his poems or recite a line of two from them. So I wanted to explore why this is so. There had been no academic reports on why Yoon Dong-ju was so famous and what attracted Koreans to him."
Although the foundation tried to equally distribute the portions dedicated to each writer, the part on Yoon Dong-ju was inevitably elongated due to his exceptional presence on readers. Over 1 million viewers watched the film "Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet" directed by Lee Joon-ik released in February.
"We had to dedicate three sessions to Yoon because he receives so much attention," said Kwak Hyo-hwan, director at the Daesan Foundation.
On a survey conducted by Kim with 1,087 people, 78 percent answered they liked Yoon because they liked his poems. Surprisingly, the likings were limited to popular poems such as "Seosi" (preface poem) or "Counting the Stars at Night."
"We will be exploring how Koreans view Yoon as a poet and what he means to them in their lives," Kim said.
Other than the symposium, the foundation will also hold "Literature Night" on April 28 at 7 p.m. at the outdoor stage "Yeollim" in Yeonhui Changjakchon (Literature Creation Town). It will be a mixture of cultural event, poetry recital, music and dance performance and visual arts.
Call 02) 725-5417 or visit daesan.or.kr for more information.