창작과 비평

[Editorial] On Restoring the Quarterly Changbi

Issue 59, Spring 1988


With this first reinstated issue, the Quarterly Changbi is reviving after an eight-year hiatus. Furthermore, this year happens to be the 22nd anniversary of Changbi’s launching. Given the storms, both large and small, that we have had to endure in the past 22 years, this issue is the 16th volume and 57th consecutive issue, rather than the 22nd volume and 88th issue. However, we at Changbi have decided to call it the 59th consecutive issue, by including in the list of its consecutive issues the two books we published in the style of the Quarterly Changbi in the interim. Subtitled as the 57th consecutive issue and published in 1985, the book Changbi, which became the excuse for the authorities’ cancelling the publisher’s registration, and the Changbi 1987 book, a “virtual” 58th consecutive issue published by Changjaksa, revived only after its renaming, are now both included in the Quarterly Changbi family, as they should be.

Remembering all the hard work that people in and outside of Korea put in to making today’s celebratory restoration of the Quarterly Changbi possible, I cannot help but feel both humbled and grateful. Even more so, because this restoration is clearly one of the fruits of the June Uprising last year. Whether we consider the enormous sacrifices made to bring about the June event, or considering the unfairness of the benefits received by different groups afterward, we at Changbi, who have harvested a tangible fruit, a restored Changbi, feel enormous responsibility. At the same time, we also feel extremely grateful for and welcome the essential work that has been entrusted to us. Now, when the space acquired through the victory in June has become complicated by the political failures in December, everyone must feel the urgent need to regroup the people’s movement that has been expanding during the 1980s.

If a mere quarterly magazine would dream of becoming the principal protagonist in this organizational task, it would be vanity and delusion. Nevertheless, the role a centripetal cultural pivot can play in assessing and integrating various movement activities, from the perspective of the minjung and minjok movements, can be essential. And we frankly feel that no such pivot was formed during the eight years of Changbi’s absence. We also feel confident that we can be more or less useful in filling that gap, because of our previous experience playing a central role during the 1970s and various struggles and efforts of ours throughout the 1980s.

That is why the structure and editorial policy of this issue remain similar to those of Changbi before its forced discontinuance. While including various fields besides literature, we maintain our focus on that art form, we do so neither out of habit nor because of convenience, making use the editorial board’s specialty, as we also professed in the editorial accompanying the first of the two magazine-style books. Rather, we chose this approach because we believe that literary works are the fullest expression of the kind of dialectical knowledge required by both truly humanlike life and our times. But it is not because of a luxurious hobby or a mere pursuit of variety that we include various humanities and social sciences in this literary magazine. Rather, it a part of the process in which the dialectical nature of literature is practiced. We believe that today’s abundant opinions by various social groups (including the literary world) are suffering from a chronic centrifugal process, and the argument for the union between theory and practice mostly ends up remaining a slogan, largely because these arguments are not fully based on serious thinking about literature, which is essential in true dialectic knowledge.


We planned this first reinstated issue according to the principle stated above. For the roundtable in the beginning, “’Minjok Literature’ and ‘Minjung Literature,’” we offer a place in which a younger group of intellectual leaders, in their 20s and 30s, examine the latest creative achievements and literary critical issues. At the same time, we affirm that an in-depth discussion about minjok literature and minjung literature is closely related to the debate on the character of Korean society, dealt with in intellectual circles, as it was in the roundtable discussion in Changbi 1987. At the same time, in “Today’s Minjok Literature and Minjok Movement,” an article that deals with a similar topic, the author (who has now become a member of the established generation) tries to connect and clarify literary movements and the entire minjok movement at its current stage. From now on, we will mostly invite younger critics, while asking for responses from an older generation, for ongoing discussions about minjok and minjung literatures. At the same time, we would like to continue dialogues with other fields through roundtables, articles, and book reviews. For this, we are planning a roundtable about modern Korean history in our next issue.

We trust that the three articles in addition to the article about minjok literature will appear to be connected organically, along with a commentary, “The Current State of and Tasks for Recently Established Research Organizations.” If so, we will have achieved our editorial mission. “The State and Minjok During the Current Era of Division,” by Park Hyun-chae, should be of interest to people interested in literature and the social sciences together. In it, the author advocates for a minjok economic theory. The author has also led debates on the character of Korean society, encapsulating issues relevant to minjok literary theory.

We also present Sim Hui-gi’s article as an example of democratic national movements bearing fruit in the field of law. In addition, we hope that “Historicism and Historiography” by Yoo Jae-keon, a younger-generation scholar, will enrich our society’s discussions on historical materialism, which is characterized by blind rejection and other unilateral arguments about them, and provide a new, more complex dimension. Also, along with reviews of literary works by Ko Un, Min Yeong, Koh Jae-jong, Park Yeong-geun, Lee Chang-dong, and Lee Eun-sik, the reviews include those of new books about theories of social structure and methodologies of social science, as well as the field of late-Joseon period historical scholarship.

It is both a burden and privilege for a literary journal to depend for its success on selecting and introducing excellent creative works, as well as to lead critical discourse through continuously new and daring ideas. We feel fortunate to receive contributions from veteran authors like Shin Kyung-rim and Hwang Sok-yong as well as outstanding new writers like Kim Hyang-sook, Seo Hong Gwan, and Yu Jong-sun. In particular, we decided to publish a lengthy novella by Kim Hyang-sook in this issue, because we felt it presents a substantical achievement.

We also selected two new authors, a poet and a writer of fiction, after a lively discussion among the editors, culling them out of many writers who submitted works for consideration. We introduce their eight poems and a short story in this issue. The poet Kim Gwang-ryeol, born in 1954, is a teacher at Sinseong Girls High School in Jeju. We trust that, through these poems, our readers will get to know a writer whose has the ability to express honest feelings in a unique tone and who has already reached a considerable level of achievement. Hong Hee-dam, who contributed the short story “Flag,” let us know only that she is a woman who has not made a literary debut yet and who lives in Gwangju. We of course respect the author’s preference for privacy. As the editor-in-chief of Changbi, I feel happy that her work presents a strong progressive view in appreciating the Gwangju Uprising from the perspective of minjung.

For the health of a national literature, we need to preserve and to fully appreciate the literary legacy of previous generations. Above all, outstanding works of the generation immediately preceding ours should be liberated from the Cold War system in our country. Fortunately, there are some signs lately of a thawing in this arena, and Baek Seok’s poems finally came to see the light of day thanks to the hard work of poet Lee Dong Soon, editor of The Complete Poems of Baek Seok. As he encountered an unexpected and precious historical testimony through his work, we publish it here, together with a substantial review of the book. We hope that this testimony remains not just as material that can satisfy people’s interest in the poet’s life, but a document that can contribute to the blossoming of our national literature.


February 1988