The Failure of a “Soldier on the Cultural Front”
This chapter examines the life and literary career of Yi T'ae-jun (1904–?) within the political context of his era. Yi T'ae-jun was a member of the apolitical Nine Members Club and a fierce enemy of the Korean Proletarian Art Federation (KAPF) before Liberation, “the most unadulterated sŏnbi” (learned gentleman) of Korean literature and “the extoller of pure art.” Hence his decision to become a “soldier on the cultural front” and glorify bloody scenes of “class struggle” as well as the virtues of Communism raised controversy. This chapter first considers three major periods of Yi's professional life: his pre-Liberation experience, his activities in South Korea in 1945–1946, and his activities in North Korea. It then explores Yi's focus on social criticism in his early writings before turning to his membership in the Nine Members Club, along with his works in the late 1930s. It also comments on Yi's fall from grace after 1953.
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