How the constructed identity of a Korean readership and forced notions of collective Korean emotion limit the understanding of Korean poetry

Christine Han, Columbia University


This article deconstructs the idea of a "Korean reader" and a "Korean readership" in order to make Korean poetry universally translatable. By breaking down the "Korean" emotions attached to an allegedly unique Korean emotional experience and examining them both as Korean and universal phenomena, the similarity of Korean emotion and universal emotion is made clear. Through this fusion the elements of Korean culture attached to these emotions still exist, yet the essence of the emotion is not uniquely Korean. By understanding that feelings which are generally attached to a specifically Korean experience are in fact global, both Korean and non-Korean readers are able to extract the full meaning of the poem with both its personal and cultural implications. The importance of divorcing a Korean poem from its Korean context is demonstrated in the analysis of poems by Kim Sowol and Yun Tong-ju. Viewing their works through a nationalistic lens limits the scope of their poetry and subordinates the cause of the nation to the individual poet?s experiences. Poetry is a form of literature that can act as a means of experiencing collective emotion but is rendered by the experience of an individual.

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