Printshops, Pressmen, and the Poetic Page in Colonial Korea

Wayne de Fremery, Sogang University
Covers of books of vernacular Korean poetry. Photo: Wayne de Fremery.
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Abstract

By analyzing the way vernacular Korean poetry of the 1920s was produced, this article initiates a study of the sociology of Korean literary production. Based on a survey of forty-five vernacular Korean books of poetry produced between 1921 and 1929, bank records, Japanese colonial government records, and printed interviews, the study describes the people, organizations, and technologies involved in the production of vernacular Korean poetry in the early twentieth century. It suggests that a small number of men in a few printing facilities working within restrained typographic conditions were responsible for printing the extant corpus of Korean vernacular poetry from the 1920s. An overview of the creative ways in which poetry was expressed visually and a discussion of the poem “Pandal” (Half moon), which appears differently in the two originary alternate issues of Kim So-wŏl’s canonical 1925 work Chindallaekkot (Azaleas), make it clear that an understanding of these people and organizations, as well as of the technologies they employed, should inform how we approach texts from this period hermeneutically.

Keywords: Korean poetry, sociology of texts, printing, typography, Kim So-wŏl