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[Editorial] On Publishing the 100th Issue, At Last / Paik Nak-chung

Issue 100, Summer 1998


The Quarterly Changbi is publishing its 100th issue—at last. The reason why I say “at last” is because we can celebrate this 100th issue two years after our 30-year anniversary celebration, while normally it would take 25 years for a quarterly magazine to celebrate its 100th issue. We don’t need to dwell on all the torturous reasons why it took Changbi so long to reach that point. Even if there are some readers who don’t know Changbi’s history, which includes its forced discontinuance by the 1980 coup d’état, now may not be the time to remember that history. Besides, if we take pride in our history of suffering during that period of oppression, as if we were the only ones who suffered, it would be absurd.

Nevertheless, remembering that we did not stop internal preparations for the renewed publication and demands for it to the authorities, it might be all right to be proud of a few things we did during that period of hardship. Our effort for renewed publication, materialized under the term of “non-periodical” Changjak-gwa Bipyeong #57, in the end brought the forced closure of the publishing company Changjak-gwa Bipyeong in 1985. Still, we managed to survive this crisis and prepare another “non-periodical”: Changbi 1987 (a title somewhat more cautious) a little before the June Uprising in that year. One factor that should be mentioned is that, although many colleagues criticized us—they criticized, in particular, our president Kim Yoon-soo the most—for our negotiations with the authorities for the survival, rather than accepting the forced closure of the publishing company, I would like to remember the revival of the publishing company even under its truncated name Changjak-sa as a victory, as it could be achieved only through all our staff’s solidarity and strong public opinion in support of us.

Since the renewed publication of Changbi in 1988, we have continued our work, maintaining confidence and our own sense of direction amidst affectionate but at times overwhelmingly contradictory criticism, such as that we had lost the sensibility and focus of the 1970s, or that we’re too old-fashioned or had changed too quickly. As a result, in the field of Korean magazines, where, metaphorically speaking, premature senility and early death seem prevalent, we not only surpassed our 32nd anniversary and 100th issue, but also enjoying a diverse and wide readership, the envy of editors of intellectual magazines in advanced countries.

But where shall we go now? Can Changbi fulfill its mission to help the Korean nation and its people take strong and just strides at this incredible crossroads of economic crises, called the “IMF Crisis,” a crisis and opportunity in which the entire division system in the Korean peninsula is tottering and can be taken down? Personally, I said confidently through the 99th issue, “As we have argued for the overcoming of the division system, tried to renew ourselves in order to meet the needs of the new stage of Korean literature, and advocated for the paradigm shift across all areas of knowledge and practice, Changbi might well be proud of our persistent effort to prepare for its mission in this critical crossroads.” Despite my confident statement, though, I am sure our wise readers heard it not as literal confidence, but as our resolution for the future and an invitation to our colleagues to continue collaborating with us.

We present the achievement made during our 100th issue commemorating symposium as this issue’s “Feature I” in a similar vein. Although we demonstrate our hard work to prepare for the future, we are earnestly wishing for others’ critical urging about our shortcomings and their encouragement for this work. At least the enthusiasm during the symposium was enough to meet our expectations. The articles here are revised from the versions presented in the symposium and include discussions about individual papers as well as the comprehensive discussion at the end of the symposium. In addition, we include supplements to two main articles. We believe even readers who attended the symposium will find this feature engaging and stimulating.

In order to celebrate the 100th issue, we also decided to diverge from our usual format for this issue. Except for the “Feature I,” “Brief Book Reviews,” and “Dialogue,” the volume is composed entirely of creative writing, included in “Feature II” with selected new poems and “Feature III” with selected new short stories. We are hoping to make up for a lack in creative writing in our magazine, a fallout from our effort to play the role of a comprehensive intellectual magazine, even while it is also a quarterly focusing in literature.

For the poems, except for two elders who contributed congratulatory poems, we invited new and mid-career poets, 19 of whom contributed new works. All of them are precious poems worth reading, in particular, the congratulatory poems by Ko Un and Shin Kyung-rim seem to be on another level than the usual poems offering words of blessings.

The third feature, “Selected New Short Stories,” not only took up the most space in this issue, but also might draw the most attention from our readers. It has been awhile since Yi Chong-jun brightened the pages of Changbi, and it has also been awhile since Lee Mun-ku quenched our thirst for his fiction (although he is a figure more familiar to our readers than Yi Chong-jun). In addition, we at the editorial board cannot be happier about the contributions from mid-career novelists like Park Bum-shin and Choi In-seok, to prominent new writers like Song Sokze, Kim Han-su, Yun Young-su, Jeong Ji-a, Eun Heekyung, and Kim Young-ha.

There is a reason for us to expand “Brief Reviews” in this issue, while we took out book reviews and articles other than the ones included in the feature I. It is, above all, the expression of our will to continue to provide reading material easily accessible to our readers. These brief reviews are at the center of our effort to provide readers with this readily accessible material. In particular, we expanded the scope to include reviews of a rock musical and a movie, rather than limiting it to book reviews, and we are planning to continue and expand this practice.

At the height of our preparation for this issue, renowned Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman visited Korea. It was a great and meaningful occasion because it overlapped with the publication of his works and the performance of his drama. In addition, those of us who were fortunate enough to meet him personally were deeply moved by his sense of solidarity, friendliness, and sharp intellect, which he has shown as an author with a similar historical experience to ours. Accordingly, we decided to conduct and publish a conversation with him in this issue, although it had to be arranged hastily, and thus caused taxing demands both to the guest and his Korean contacts. We thank all of those involved in this project, including Changbi staff members.

As we announced in the editorial of the last issue, Changbi also had to endure some hardships in order to weather the difficulty related to the IMF Crisis, including the suspension of the publication of Chanbi Munhwa (Changbi culture). Instead, we continued our effort to establish the Digital Changbi (www.changbi.com) and we’re greatly encouraged to see an excited response to it, far exceeding our expectations. Currently, we have much room to improve this project, as there seems to be a huge gap between the paper magazine readers and “netizens,” including the anonymous cynics characteristic of the internet media, and, above all, we, including Changbi staff members, need to participate in it more creatively and competently. However, we expect that Digital Changbi will be the space that magazine readers would find worth visiting and where those people who focus more on the net can meet the world of Changbi, which we have created despite all the difficulties and will continue to maintain. We will try to continue our effort to create such a space through Digital Changbi.

What fills my heart the most at this point, when the editing work for this issue is over, is my gratitude to all our readers, as has always been the case. I renew my promise here that we will not stop our efforts to repay your support.