From 1910 to 1945, Japan ruled over the Korean Peninsula and tried to assimilate the Korean people into its empire. Part of this ambition was the suppression of the native language, for example by ending Korean language education and newspapers. Under these circumstances, the peninsula’s authors had to find new forms of creative expression – and despite these difficulties they produced insightful fictional works, even during the last, and most oppressive, decade of Japan’s colonial rule.
To learn more about the literature from this era, and about the conditions under which it was produced, we had the pleasure to interview Professor Janet Poole. She spoke to us about some of the authors of this period, the characteristics of their writings, and about what happened to them and the reception of their works after the colonial period.
Janet Poole is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Two years ago she wrote “When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea” (Columbia University Press). Poole received her PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, her MA in Korean Literature from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and a BA in Japanese and Korean from the University of London.
One thing that intrigued me about the late colonial period […] is that it’s paradoxically – maybe – a time where a lot of the fictional works considered canonical today were actually written. The general narrative is that the late 1930s and 40s saw the oppression of Korean culture and […] its literature. […] This seemed contradictory to me, to say that literature was being suppressed and yet here all these famous works seem to have been written.
The interview was recorded on June 29th, 2016 in Seoul.