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[Opinion] Revealing Private Lives

Posted October. 31, 2007 03:43,   


I-Novel (私小説, Watakushi shōsetsu) is a popular literary genre in Japanese literature that uses the real lives and experience of writers as the source of novels. Since ordinary lives receive little attention from the public, the dramatic elements must be included for success. Because of this, I-Novel authors tend to drive their lives into extremes. Regarding this, Ito Sei, a Japanese novelist and critic, said, “When writing novels, my life goes crazy. However, once my life became stable, I couldn’t write any more novels.”

The I-Novel, which was recognized as post-war socialist writings during the 1970s, has been categorized as mainstream literary genre since 1980s. The Korean literature circle started following the I-Novel trend from the mid 1990s. Coinciding with the development of individualism which emerged after the disappointment of micro-discourse about war, history, and society, this genre is becoming more popular in both countries these days. Leaving behind collectivism, familism, and ideological partition, the extreme individualism, dubbed me-ism, is emerging as new contents of movie, novels, and TV programs.

Looking into the trends of popular culture in recent years, we notice that “telling private stories” is getting popular. TV celebrities appear in TV shows and reveal their private lives such as divorce, marriage, childbirth, love affairs, and even plastic surgery without hesitation. Some even mention their sexual lives and their family’s clinical history. Everyone has a right to reveal his/her private life. However, these stories should consist of ones that can gain the sympathy from people and make people feel comforted. Otherwise, this trend is likely to stir up social demoralization and promote excessive exposure of privacy.

The divorce of one devoted TV celebrity couple is the most popular issue these days. Since their happy marriage was often depicted in TV shows, the news is very surprising to us. One appeared in a TV show and gave advice for how to enjoy a wonderful sex life during marriage. And the other even worked as a marriage consultant. This couple also made money and gained popularity by revealing their private lives. They even mentioned the number of times they engaged in sexual intercourse during their marriage to avoid the responsibility of their break. If their private lives were completed protected from the public or they were just an ordinary couples, such disastrous scene might have not taken place.

Heo Mun-myeong, editorial writer, angelhuh@donga.com