동국포스트

Saturday,August 24,2019
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A Perfect Meeting with Novelist Kim Ha-gie
Kim Ha-gie, a well-known writer in Korea, is a person with a unique record. While a student at Pusan National University, he experienced hardship and privation in prison because he was opposed to the military regime in 1980s. His most interesting fete was when he unexpectedly went to North Korea. "When I was traveling in China, I became depressed in front of the Yalu River. I could clearly see North Koreans. I crossed the Yalu River into the North on the courage of liquor. It was too late to turn back when I perceived that what I was doing was wrong. My action created a great sensation in South Korea," Mr Kim said pleasantly.
Kim Ha-gie has devoted himself to the creation of unification literature for 13 years. Critics viewed him as an activist who has never stopped yearning for life's purity and unification between the two Koreas. His prolific pen found no rest during the oppression of the military regimes nor during the hardships he faced in prison over ten years. However, he continued his steady and persistent efforts to make his literary world. His efforts, led to several of his works being dramatized and translated into English. Especially, A Perfect Meeting, a novel which depicts the hopelessness and despair of unreconstructed long-term prisoners and informs foreigners about the hardship and sorrow of those prisoners.
His early works exude a desire for unification, and center around the hardship of former North Korean spies who spent most of their lives in prisons in the South. "My first novel, A Perfect Meeting, dealt with realism and unification through long-term prisoners who didn't change their ideology. Blind Flight and Ginko's Love comes from the same source as A Perfect Meeting," Kim said.
"My works are valuable to my readers because I try to let my readers know the real state of long-term prisoners and what true democracy is," Kim added.
When comparing his new novel, Scarred Peach Blossom, to former literary works, however, he was more similar to a humanist than a realist.
"As you know, unification is the material for my novel. However, I only tried to depict our unification sentimentally. That is, I dreamed about a revolution to achieve our unification. The social environment has changed after the June 15 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration signed by Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il."
One character in The Road to Yong Neup demonstrates his changed mind to unification. Shin Mu-hong, a rancher in Haean village, asked Hae-jun, "How could we get a better quality of pork, Mu-hong?"
"Well... good quality is obtained by copulation with a wild boar. When we a build pigpen's fence, it should be low enough for a wild boar to come over it. It's useless for us to remove the fence. Instead, lowering the fence is better. Unification is also like this."
Snowfall, one of the short stories in Scarred Peach Blossom, also expresses the author's changed mind. "During my early days as a writer, I could not overlook our social problems. I was longing to present my own examination of myself as a novelist to my reader. For 13 years, I didn't talk about myself in my works. This is the first time that I deal with my private life and problems."
As for the criticism that his literary world has changed compared with his early works, he said, "I am surprised whenever I hear this criticism. I don't agree with it. It's just that my literary world has become more comprehensive compared with my former writings."
Does literature have an important role in society today? "Literature has an important role to play, because it deals, as I said before, with human beings and their societies and how they deal with the things we all experience in life: birth, growing up, falling in love, being frustrated in our ambitions or achievements. These things are universal and it's writers who deal with them, not the politicians."
Kim Ha-gie is now a research worker for Min-ju Park located in Busan. Although he is working there, he continues to write novels when he has the time. It is true that his life as a writer is bitter than others' but he is an alternative to our society's harsh reality.

Kim Jung-yoon  sasports@dongguk.edu

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