The book titled “Ryu Sŏngnyong, Chancellor of Chosŏn Korea: On the Battlefield and in Memory” has been released by the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of California in Berkeley to share a biography of Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (1542-1607), a famous Chief State Councilor during the Joseon Dynasty.
English literature scholar and classics translator Choi Byong-hyon, director of the Center for Globalizing Korean Classics, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that there are only few great figures in Korean history widely known across the globe, although Korean pop culture is gaining worldwide fame. A 560-page-long publication, which took him seven years, describes not only Ryu's life stories but also the historical backgrounds of the trilateral relationship filled with conflicts and turbulence among Korea, China, and Japan during the Imjin War in 1592. "The dynamics of the time are written from the perspective of Joseon,” Choi said.
"Ryu was an outstanding scholar. He also had a keen eye for picking out great generals such as Yi Sun-sin, contributing to the victory of the Imjin War,” Choi said. Back in 2002, he released “The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis During the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598” in English, originally published by Ryu to describe how he overcame the war.
Choi, an English literature major, has been dedicated to translating Korean-written classics into English for more than 20 years. His translations include “Admonitions on Governing the People: Manual for All Administrators,” “The Annals of King T'aejo: Founder of Korea's Chosŏn Dynasty'' and “A Korean Scholar’s Rude Awakening in Qing China: Pak Chega’s Discourse on Northern Learning” published jointly with Harvard University and Hawaii University. "When I taught Korean literature at the University of Maryland University College Asian Division in Seoul in 1997, I got into trouble because there was no book on Korean literature and history translated into English," the 73-year-old translator recalled. He argued that it matters to translate materials on Korean history and classic literature so that they can gain worldwide recognition.
"We should make a sincere effort to ensure Korean classics, deep in the roots of Korean culture, become well-known across the globe,” he said. "I hope the biography of Ryu will increase global awareness of Korean historical figures.