100th Anniversary of Korean-German Author Mirok Li"s BirthThe 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Dr. Li Mi Rok, also well-known by Mirok Li, on March 8 is triggering a 'Mirok Li Boom' in Korean cultural society.
Dr. Li was more famous in Germany than in his native Korea because he wrote his novels in German and he had resided in Germany since he was granted political asylum in 1919.
Born in Haeju, Hwanghae Province, now in North Korea, in 1899, he participated in the March 1 Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule in 1919 when he was a student at Kyongsong Medical College which later became Seoul National University Medical College.
He flew to Shanghai in order to escape arrest by Japanese police and then sought political asylum in Germany.
In Germany, he majored in medicine at Wuerzburg and Heidelberg universities and took a doctorate in zoology at Munich university in 1928.
However Dr. Li was more interested in literature than in medicine or zoology.
His first work, 'Nachts in einer koreanischen Gasse'(In the Night of a Korean Street), appeared in 1939 which tells the story of a poet assisting a prisoner which helps him understand his humanity.
However his most famous novel is 'Der Yalu Fliesst'(The Yalu River flows) published in 1946 which he wrote over a 10-year period. This autobiographical novel describes his experiences from childhood to political asylum in Germany.
He depicted Korean customs, homelife, and education in a series of interrelated stories. His crisp, lean, writing style met with favorable criticism.
A literary critic commented, 'The most excellent German novel this year was written by a foreigner whose presence here is purely by accident.' Portions of the novel appear in anthologies used in German classrooms.
He further wrote 'Iyagi'(Story) and 'Mudhoni'(A Good-natured Man) which both deal with the divergences and convergences of oriental and occidental thought.
He died in a small village outside of Munich in 1950.
Korean Overseas Culture and Information Service will hold a memorial lecture meeting and an exhibition of his relics and the first Mirok Li Award ceremony in Munich in March.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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