[FOUNTAIN]A Literature of Pain and LossAs of June 25, it has been 51 years since the Korean War broke out. During the war, which went on for three years and one month, 4 million Koreans, of which 3 million were civilians, were killed.
The war left a literary tradition that revolves around the division of the nation. The novels and poems that are part of this output attack the contradictions of the division and attempt to embrace the wounded hearts of the war. Among the works of fiction, Choi In-hun's "Kwangjang" and Jo Jung-rae's "Taebaek Mountains" have been loved the most. The novel, "Kwangjang" is about a prisoner of war whose life was caught up in an ideological struggle between the South and the North. He throws himself into the sea from a ship heading to a neutral country. The work set a new record for Korean novels in March with the 124th printing.
"Taebaek Mountains" is a saga of 10 volumes depicting the uprising of 1948 in Yeosu and Suncheon regions and the partisan struggles during the Korean War. Some 4.7 million copies of the book have been sold. The two novels both attempt to blame the tragedy of division and to purify our sole through cathartic depiction of tragic events.
Poets have voiced more direct and realistic criticism against the national division of the peninsula and the subsequent pain and wounds. In his poem, "Hyujeonseon," or the truce line in English, poet Park Bong-wu expresses his grief. "In this darkness, where a mountain and another mountain face each other and a face faces another face without faith, how can flowers bloom even if they knew sometime, at least once, the thundering volcano would erupt."
Another poet, Kim Jun-tae, directly uncovers the scars of the war through his poetry. "There will be no more of yesterday in which your father and grandfather were torn limb from limb / There will be no more of the clash in which the North and the South would collide with each other . . . . "Kim Jin-kyeong, another poet, even warns of the possible danger of nuclear war. ". . . this nation was special and they carried the gene which triggered the people to hate each other / . . . the extinction of the nation was a crime committed by all human races."
Last year, President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il jointly announced the historic June 15 Declaration. We earnestly hope that the declaration is realized as soon as possible so that the literature depicting the division of the nation will no longer maintain its popularity in our time. By realizing the declaration, we hope the literature of division will be referred to only as a literary trend.
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Cho Hyun-wook