The curator's brother-in-law, Yi Chung-sŏk, investigates the papers of Yi's great-grandfather, Ch’oe Pyŏng-min (1880-1939)

Dance of Anguish: Poetic Texts from 1920s Korea

The curator's brother-in-law, Yi Chung-sŏk, investigates the papers of Yi's great-grandfather, Ch’oe Pyŏng-min (1880-1939)

It is important to understand that while the bulk of scholarship on Korean poetry from the early twentieth century has focused on printed vernacular texts (even if how the technologies of print were employed in colonial Korea has not been thoroughly investigated), a great deal of poetry was composed by Korean authors in classical Chinese and circulated in manuscript form at the time. If we are to gain a fuller understanding of what circulated as poetry in Korea during the first decades of the twentieth century, poetic texts composed in classical Chinese and presented in a variety of mediums will need to be explored.

The books shown in this image have been stored in two wooden boxes in an outbuilding on a small family farm in the village of Nop’a near Hapch’ŏn in South Kyŏngsang Province. They contain a great variety of materials, including a list of people who appear to have been Ch’oe’s students, a number of editions of the family chokpo (family genealogy), a collection of Ch’oe’s writings entitled Maehŏn mannok (1933), and manuscript copies of poetry collections from a variety of Chinese and Korean authors, as well as a collection by Ch’oe containing mostly poetry—Sonŭn chamnok  (1928). I suspect that this kind of cache is hardly unique and imagine others inquiring into their own family histories have pulled similar boxes from comparably dusty storage spaces.