Sunday, October 04, 2009

Park Wan-suh in Colonial Modernity in Korea

Colonial Modernity in Korea
(Image from

In ranging about the internet yesterday in search of Pakchŏk Village, Park Wan-suh's birthplace, I came upon an article about another of her novels, this one in the book pictured above, Colonial Modernity in Korea, edited by Gi-Wook Shin and Michael Robinson. The article, by Kyeong-Hee Choi, is titled as follows:
Neither Colonial nor National: The Making of the "New Woman" in Pak Wansŏ's "Mother's Stake 1"
Note yet another variant on the romanization of her name: Pak Wansŏ. This sort of problem happens all the time with Korean names, and one must remain alert to possible variants on a name or else miss out on translated books and literary-critical articles. I'll stick to Park Wan-suh except when quoting.

At any rate, the novel treated -- Mother's Stake 1 (Ômma ûi Malttuk 1, 엄마의 말뚝 1) -- is the first in a trilogy, each volume of which is distinguished merely by a number: 1 (1980); 2 (1981); and 3 (1991). I note it here because it seems to be much the same story as Who Ate Up All the Shinga?, albeit perhaps more 'fictionalized'.

Anyway, Kyeong-Hee Choi makes the observation -- obvious also to any reader of the Shinga book -- that Park Wan-suh's trilogy hardly mentions any Japanese characters. Park seems not to share the intense nationalism with which so many Koreans now look back upon the colonial period, seeing constant oppression everywhere, but rather presents a more complex picture of colonial Korea. Choi cites Anne McClintock at the onset of her article, perhaps as representative of Park's apparent neglect of Korean nationalism:
All nationalisms are gendered, all are invented, and all dangerous . . . . Nowhere has feminism in its own right been allowed to be more than the maidservant to nationalism.
Park, however, also isn't explicitly feminist, at least not in Who Ate Up All the Shinga?, though her autobiography -- and moreso many of her fictional works, apparently -- leaves room for feminist interpretations.

I suppose that one could even frame Park's oeuvre in nationalist terms if one wished, but that would take a more nuanced nationalism than many Koreans are willing to concede when looking back upon the colonial past.

But I'll leave things at that for now.

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At 1:46 PM, Blogger Jay Kactuz said...

Did you see this?


At 2:03 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thank, Jay. I hadn't seen that, but it looks interesting, so I'll try to give it a closer look soon.

Jeffery Hodges

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