창작과 비평

[Editorial] On Publishing Changbi as a “Non-Periodical”

Issue 57, October 1985


On Publishing Changbi as a Non-Periodical[1. The two prefaces presented here were composed for two magazine-like books published after the cancellation of the Quarterly Changbi, in 1985 and 1987, respectively. In publishing these books in the style of the cancelled magazine, the publisher was daring the authorities. The publishing house itself was also cancelled after the 1985 publication and could only register in 1986 under a different name.]


The Quarterly Changbi was forced to discontinue its publication by the authorities in July 1980, after producing 56 issues since its inaugural issue in January 1966. Since this shutdown, for the past five years, discussions have continued about what Quarterly Changbi accomplished and what it did not. People also expressed regrets about the absence of such a magazine. Since we also felt it regrettable, we might have heard these voices of regret more loudly. Yet we did not make the decision lightly: to publish Quarterly Changbi as a “non-periodical,” as a way to compensate for the hole left by it. Rather, we have spent a long time in reflection—so long, in fact, that we could blame ourselves for not attempting this format earlier.

We do not wish to discuss here whether or not the work of Quarterly Changbi should have been discontinued at that particular time and in that way. In fact, ironically, we feel thankful for the authorities’ measures in at least two ways. First, the occasion has allowed us time to reflect on and evaluate our work up until then. Second, the loss of a catalyst in the form of the Quarterly Changbi expanded the space for cultural movements in the 1980s and stimulated various forms of creativity and activism by dedicated individuals. Of course, the latter occurrence is mainly due to the potential of many Korean people, which could also have been mobilized while Quarterly Changbi existed, so we do not necessarily credit the extraordinary circumstances of our discontinuance for the creative expansion of cultural movements. Rather, as former editors of Quarterly Changbi, we thank everyone for what we learned during our enforced break.

Something else is truly important: How fruitfully we spent the past five years, which we will have to measure both individually and as a group through what we have done so far and what we will do now. If someday Quarterly Changbi can resume publication, the new issue will be the touchstone of how well we spent this period; yet we feel the same excitement in preparing to publish this non-periodical Changbi.

There have been preparations for today’s test. Above all, the forced discontinuance of Quarterly Changbi was a great blow to its surviving publishing company—and it wasn’t the last storm we had to weather—but we survived and might say we even thrived somewhat, considering the current state of the publishing industry. Also, we have continued to work on establishing a systematic gathering space for important intellectual discussions, rather than existing merely as a publishing house. Further, rather than stopping at the publication of books, we explored various other possibilities in order to fill the gap left by the quarterly. Our first project after the magazine’s discontinuance was the publication in January 1981 of a collection of new works by 13 poets, Our Yearning, a book that necessitated all kinds of cuts and bruises due to the martial law imposed at that time. After this initial publication, the series continued three more times, until this year. Since February 1982, we also published new collections of literary critiques, The Current Stage of Korean Literature, four times so far. In addition, we published two new collections of short stories in the past two years. Furthermore, continuing the discussion in the edited volume of translated articles, What is Nationalism? (1981), we published three volumes titled Discussions on Korean Nationalism, another effort to accomplish what is truly based in our nation and people inside and outside of literature, while at the same time attempting to understand literature, history, and society comprehensively. This non-periodical Changbi is the continuation of these multifaceted efforts.

In fact, we discussed the possibility of this kind of non-periodical format publication of Changbi a few years ago when there was a growing movement toward magazine-type books. However, we did not want to be hasty in our self-reflection, which had been forced upon us. Also, we were worried that by joining the small-group publication movement, we might inadvertently dampen this enthusiastic and explosive movement that was offsetting the forced discontinuation of quarterly magazines[2. The Quarterly Changbi was one of the centers of activist publishing in South Korea until its cancellation in 1980. Afterward, many small publishing companies attempted similar types of books, leading to a variety of lively, small-scale media.].

So what is the current state of publishing now that we’re entering the second half of the 1980s? We are still seeing the publication of a lot of magazine-style books. Also, Silcheon muhak, which began as a magazine-style book, recently became a magazine, but immediately ran into oppression, thus reinforcing the importance of magazine-style books. However, the time when the growing expansion of magazine-style book publications denoted an important event in the cultural movement has passed. Now is a time when securing and changing regular periodicals as well as the improvement in quality of magazine-style books has become an urgent need. In fact, we wonder if now those who truly think of our country’s future and worry about the intellectual climate of our society would strongly desire a magazine like Quarterly Changbi in order to guide and encourage our social and intellectual discussions.

It is from such an understanding of our current situation and from our sincere desire not to simply sit still and do nothing that we prepared this book. Therefore, we fashioned this non-periodical Changbi out of a desire to create a book that could also be called as the 57th issue of Quarterly Changbi, while incorporating some strands of our book publication efforts in the past years. Readers will immediately notice that its format and contents greatly resemble those of Quarterly Changbi. That is not just force of habit nor sentimental nostalgia on our part, though. Rather, on the one hand, we felt relieved that there were many groups and organizations that did things we had wanted to do but could not in the late 1970s, and much better than us. On the other hand, we also felt an urgent need to do what only Quarterly Changbi could do intensively in the past—now on an even higher plane. Thus, if this book does not include more advanced contents than Quarterly Changbi, together with its similar format, we will consider our project a failure.

Of course our readers will judge whether or not we succeeded. In any case, from the table of contents, you’ll easily see that this book generally follows the editorial direction of Quarterly Changbi, in that it is open to the social sciences, history, and philosophy, even while focusing on literature, and that it is a space for introducing carefully chosen literary works, while also emphasizing literary criticism that guides literary discussions by setting standards. Although we’re a little regretful that we could not publish all of the planned articles in literary criticism in this issue, we are happy about what we have. The first article, “A New Stage of Minjung and minjung Literature”; the lengthy roundtable “1980’s Literature,” where participants engaged in intensive and important discussions on the current state of Korean literature; and book reviews—as substantial as scholarly articles or focused discussions of authors—on important books by major authors such as Hwang Tong-gyu, Cho Tae-il, and Park Wansuh, as well as newly published children’s literature. In addition, we are publishing new poems by Ko Un, Kim Yong Taik, and Lee Dong Soon, and, in particular, 1,641 lines of the beginning of the epic poem “Hong Beom-Do” by Lee Dong Soon, as well as short stories by two novelists, one in the prime of his career, the other a promising newcomer. Furthermore, “Madangguk: Achievements and Tasks” expands not only the scope of the field of Korean performing arts but also national literature, thanks to its careful and comprehensive discussion based on the author’s passionate love of the contemporary Minjung drama movement as well as a well-informed understanding of foreign literature and drama. “Film Movements and Theories during the Japanese Colonial Period” will also enrich our literary and cultural movement through its excavation of important historical facts and its innovative discussions.

As the above introduction shows, this book dedicates much space to literature and the arts. Regarding this, we would like to emphasize that this is so not just because of the editorial board members’ fields of interest. We want to continue the tradition of Quarterly Changbi, often called a “literary quarterly,” since we believe that literary understanding, in the most desirable sense of the term, is a more basic condition for human beings than social science knowledge. If this statement sounds like “literalism,” we can express it differently as well: while social scientific knowledge is important not in and of itself but as a stage in the dialectic understanding of our reality, true literariness is in itself dialectic. In this sense, literariness naturally includes scientific knowledge about history and society. This has indeed been one of the goals of Quarterly Changbi from its beginning.

In order to achieve this consistent goal, we decided that a scientific discussion of the nature of Korean society in its current stage was an important new task, and so initiated a feature: “Debates on the Character of Korean Capitalism,” with two articles by Park Hyun-chae and Lee Dae-keun, respectively. Although this focus begins with articles by economists, given the state of domestic discussions about this topic so far, and because we would like to attempt a thoroughly scientific understanding of the matter, we hope for participation by political, sociological, and historical scholars, as well as more serious discussions within the literary world than are attempted in articles in this book. Also, we expect that “How to View the Korea-US Relationship,” an article illuminating this relationship in a new light, and “Understanding Reality in the Age of Division and Explorations of Korean Nationalism,” a book review discussing the minjung and minjok movements, will inspire more concrete discussions about our current reality, while contributing to its scientific understanding. Last but not the least, while “Philosophies of Practice: Focusing on Lukacs and Gramsci” is the only article not pertaining to our immediate surroundings, it is not only intellectually engaging but also inspires us to reflect on our current, impractical trend in Korean philosophical fields, in the same way that other articles in this issue inspire us to think of our concrete reality.


October 1985