Monday, December 21, 2020

North Korean Literature in the South


The novel "Friends" by Nam-ryong Paek, a well-known writer from North Korea, was selected as one of the ten best literature masterpieces of 2020, published by Columbia University Press in May of this year. The book was written in1988 and translated by a professor at George Washington University.

In the column of the Catholic Times on Unification, a researcher on Peace in North-East Asia introduces the book to the readers as an interesting glimpse of North Korea. 

It is possible by reading the book to indirectly view the social life of the North, a controlled society, and acquaint ourselves with changes that have appeared. Literary works reflect the reality of an era very vividly since it is a reflection on the social aspects, and because it is impossible to draw the images only from our imagination. 

The writer enjoyed reading the book. The plot is what happens when a young woman who is active as a singer in an art group filed a divorce lawsuit against her husband in court. This novel depicts the pain experienced by the parties and their families, and the judge who took the case and proceeded with the preparations for the trial, made him reflect on his own marriage. (Judges in the North are social workers, detectives, and counselors besides representing the law) 

The fact that they had 'divorce' in the north was surprising to the writer and that a novel was written with the subject of 'family', where he thought each individual would be living a standardized life, surrounded with propaganda. 

When he heard the news of this selection, he thought Korean literary works from North and South in the Korean language, also recognized in the international community should  have a positive effect on the unification of the two Koreas. Nothing makes us feel homogeneous in the international community as much as using the same language. Also, since it is possible to translate into a language acceptable to the international community this would increase the likelihood of awards such as the Nobel Prize in the future.

However, above all else, he hopes that acceptance of North Korean literature in the South  will increase— not only accepted in the international community. This is because it is necessary that we, who are parties to unification, first come in contact with each other's life.

There is always the presence of propaganda in the North Korean system, but the writer thinks that it is beneficial to allow literary works to help us understand the life and perceptions of the North Koreans and work to resolve the sense of disparity.

If the two Koreas were allowed each other's literature to be freely shared it would be more than great, but even if it is only one way: to allow North Korean literature based on the confidence of our society under certain conditions would help to decrease the hostility that now exists.

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