[Editorial] On publishing Changbi 1987

Issue 58, Changbi 1987

 

The state of affairs during the time we were finishing this book were particularly tense and volatile. Yet, as we would surely become uselessly anxious if we were to try predicting what will happen in this unpredictable time, in order to respond to it, it would be wiser to take a long-term view and investigate and strengthen what we should do in that timeframe. If we step back to take a long view, the current turn of events clearly confirms our trust in the potential of the Korean people. However, the greater our trust, the greater our responsibility, and the more anxious we become, regardless of whether we are optimistic or pessimistic about how we can appropriately deal with the responsibility given us in this situation. As editor of this book, I too am greatly worried about various questions, from “How can today’s pain fruitfully extend to the national task of unification?” and on a larger plane: “How can the more-than-two-decade-old work of Changbi be reborn to meet the challenges of new days to come?”

It would not be just dogmatic of a few involved participants to believe that Changbi should continue its rebirth for the sake of our society’s progress. Above all, though, Changbi has been continuing because of the hard work of many people, from all walks of social life, rather than a few directly involved in its editorial tasks. Also, the more urgent our reality becomes and the more rapidly it changes, the more we need wisdom from accumulated experience and a relatively consistent ability to analyze and systematically understand this experience. This need would not be entirely met, of course, even if authorities allowed our quarterly’s publication to resume. When even that hasn’t happened, though, there aren’t many choices for a publisher or an individual. Nevertheless, it is necessary for our literary world to take on its role as an agent in this national crisis. Also, we editors of Changbi have continued to believe that Korean intellectuals and others can wisely respond to this situation with the spirited energy of literary and creative work, and we think this belief of ours is still valid enough that we should put it into practice in whatever ways possible. That is why I have edited and am publishing Changbi 1987, a magazine-style book, and the editorial staff at Changjaksa have not hesitated to work collaboratively and hard.

Hence, the structure and contents of this book resembles Quarterly Changbi. For example, we made sure not to omit articles of literary criticism, in which our readers would be interested, because we believe that open discussions of literary work being done here and now is essential not only to the health of literature but also the vitality of the entire society. Although we cannot publish all the articles we had planned, we are publishing here substantial literary critical discussions, including: “Historical Truth and Literary Truth,” an article about The Taebaek Mountains by Choi Won-sik; “The Orientation of the 1980’s Minjung Literature Theory,” a systematic argument broaching recent discussions on minjung literature by Hwang Gwang-su; a book review article, rather detailed discussion about Do Jong Hwan’s You, My Hollyhock; and substantial critical discussions in the form of book reviews on works by Lee Si-young, Lee Dong Soon, Oh Junghee, and Kim Hyang-sook. In addition, through “Korean Literature Studies: What Should We Do and How?”, an article extensively expanding an acceptance speech of the Donam Korean Literature Award, Lim Hyung-taek shows us how our interest in the contemporary literary scene can expand into the study of the legacies of Korean literature, including Sino-Korean literature.

Although the study of Korean history and its popularization have always been an important part of our work at Changbi, we could not publish any article on the matter this time. Instead, we hope that two book reviews on Korean history will help rectify this omission. In these two reviews—Introduction to Korean Historiography (2nd Edition) and History of Korean Minjung—we feel the reviewers’ (and our own) sincere desires to contribute to a judicious and lively discussion on books widely read by readers and scholars.

Despite the reading public’s extraordinary interest in the “Debates on the Character of Korean Capitalism” series that began two years ago with our publication notably called “Changbi 57,” we have not been able to continue it as promised. We will not cite the reason, as our readers already know it well;1 but the debate itself continued, expanded, and deepened through other media, despite the commotion surrounding the cancelling of our publishing company’s registration. Instead of continuing the debate in this book, we prepared a roundtable that is more accessible to our general readers, in order to provide a space where literature and social science can meet—a wish I had from the beginning as an editor of the Quarterly Changbi. I also feel that this kind of discussion that is friendly to the general public should not necessarily cheapen the dialogue, as it is indeed important to have training in critical discussion so that more people can understand and participate in it. I am proud to say that we made good progress in a scientific understanding of the concrete characteristics of our society, including the concept of “social formation” and of division, rather than merely popularizing existing discussions, in the lengthy roundtable in the beginning of this book, “The Character of Korean Society in its Current Stage and Tasks for Minjok Movements.”

We believe that the article “Anti-Feudalism in Korean Society, Its Meaning, and the Movement toward Democracy” by Park Hyun-chae, one of the authors who contributed to the original “Debates on the Character of Korean Capitalism,” not only develops his own general discussion into a more specific argument, but also will again stimulate productive scholarly discussions. His article is particularly timely as economic history scholarship takes renewed interest in the matter of “feudality” in the current, breathtaking stage of our democratization movement. We did not plan the two other articles in this Articles corner: “The Nationalist Movement in China During the Early Anti-Japanese Period, Its Tasks, and the United Front” by Baik Young Seo, and “Debates on Fascism in Central America and South America” by Lee Seong-Hyeong, to be part of a special feature, but they also contribute to our understanding of contemporary Korean society, both directly and indirectly. In particular, even in the more-open atmosphere since the partial lifting of a ban on ideological books by the authorities in the 1980s, people tend to be polarized: either categorically rejecting or indiscriminately accepting discussions on certain social ideologies or movements. We can learn much from these two articles, which meticulously verify hypotheses, according to objective data. We hope that we can thereby change the current polarized climate of discussion.

As we feel strongly the urgent need to critically examine various aspects of our society and promote discussions on them, we ended up not having much space for creative writings. Still, we introduce a new poem by Kim Ji-ha, “In Haenam,” as well as new works by such masters as Park Wansuh, Jung Hee Sung, and Kim Seong-dong. We are also happy to introduce a new poet, one out of many submissions; it is clear that Park Cheol, whose 15 poems, including “Kimpo 1,” has spent a long time honing his skills, and we believe that he has acquired the ability to treat various poetic materials adeptly. We anticipate that he will be a unique voice in the future. In addition, the poets Shin Kyung-rim, Lee Si-young, and Ko Hyeong-ryeol carefully read through the poems that were submitted and agreed to the publication of these poems.

 

June 1987
Paik Nak-chung

 

 

  1. In reaction to the publication of its non-periodical volume Quarterly Changbi (No. 57), Changbi Publishers’ registration was revoked in 1985 on charges that this publication continued the periodical series. In protest, a pan-intellectual and nationwide signature campaign erupted, in which intellectuals and literary and human-rights groups worldwide participated. Subsequently, in August 1986, the publishing house was newly registered as Changjak-sa.