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Paik Nak-cheong`s literature and politics

Posted November. 25, 2015 09:08,   


Paik Nak-cheong is considered one of the most aristocratic leftists in Korea in terms of the wealth of his family and knowledge. His father Paik Bung-je served as a high-ranking official at the Japanese Government General in Korea whose name has been added to the dictionary of pro-Japanese people provided for by the Institute of Research in Collaborationists. Paik Bung-je’s brother was Paik In-je, the founder of Paik Hospital. The traditional Korean house that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon tried to use as his new official residence to little avail actually belonged to the hospital’s founder.

Paik Nak-cheong was well known for his brightness as a student. When he was a third grader of Gyeonggi High School, Paik participated in the world debate for high school students as the representative of Korea, and the news was reported nationwide through all media outlets. On June 12, 1959, The Dong-A Ilbo issued a headline that Paik promoted the academic excellence of Korean students by graduating from the English department of Brown University summa cum laude and giving a speech as school valedictorian. Paik was yet to finish a doctorate course in Harvard before coming back to Korea to become a professor of English literature at Seoul National University.

In 1966, Paik established the publisher Changbi, which has been the biggest literature publisher along with "Literature and Intelligence." Paik highly evaluated the literature that was written for the theme of division on the Korean Peninsula. He came up with the idea called "Division Paradox" that presumes all distortions and problems in Korean society stemmed from the division of the country. The theory appeared valid in a way when the two Koreas competed with each other based on the two different systems, but the idea lost currency after the collapse of communism in the North. Paik came up with a new theory that while it is important to overcome the division and pursue unification, the unified Korea must overcome the barrier of capitalism as well.

When President Lee Myung-bak was sworn in, Paik and his publisher Changbi decided that the progressive spirit ignited by the democratization in 1987 has dissipated and began to intervene more actively. They disseminated false information about mad cow disease and claimed that North Korea is not behind the sinking of the Korean corvette Cheonan. Paik helped the Unified Progressive Party secure parliamentary seats through round-table conferences. Today, Paik stepped down from the editorial writer of Changbi, where he had worked for 50 years. His critique may have been outstanding, but when it comes to politics, he was just like a reckless left-wing extremist in the West.