Ⅰ. General background about the modern female literature in Japan and Korea
Japanese women literature in Meiji Period was existed, closely connected with the transformation of general women history. Modernization in Japan was developed in a way that can play important roles to give women the enlightenment ideas and to awaken the awareness of human nature in general. Patriarchism and gender discrimination based on the traditional Confucianism and Buddhism forced women to be subordinated to husband and family and all the freedom of women was oppressed by these ideologies. In this period, European rationalism and Christianity were introduced in Japan and the controversial issues such as the equality of every man, free love and freedom of marriage were raised by scholars like Hukujawa Yuukichi(福澤諭吉). However, these issues were remained without any significant changes as they used to be, since old custom and morale were deep-rooted in Japanese society.
One of the most outstanding writers in Showa Reign after the War, is Hayasi Humikko. Starting its first sentence "I'm destined to be a wanderer. I don't have any hometown in the first place", 『Horoki(放浪記)』(1930) depicted a woman's wondering and sorrow who is suffering from painful poverty and hunger, and who had to move one place to another to find a job. Hayasi Humikko who was as poor as Higuchi Ichiyo in real life, was likely to put her own personal wondering life itself into her works more honestly.
When we talk about the rising of female writers in Korean literary history, it goes way back to 1917 when Kim Myeong-seun(金明淳) published 「Suspicious Girl」on a magazine called 「Cheongchun(靑春)」as a prize-winning novel. In the 1920s, we have Na Hye-seok(羅惠錫), Kim Il-yeop who vigorously asserted so-called free love and the freedom of women and did outstanding job. I would say, however, it would be more appropriate that we consider these two predecessors tried to be activists fighting to spread 'modern women' images in Korea rather than to be genuine female writers. It was not until 1930s that female writers started flourishing.
Choi Jeong-hui who began her own literary career in this period and was able to take a certain literary position amongst many male writers as a female writer, publishing many literary works. In her works, she tried to express her own unique style based on her personal experiences and human nature. She developed how female characters experience their inevitable agonies within their destinies using her exquisite and sensitive writing skills. Female characters that we can find out in Choi Jeong-hui's novels are mainly those who challenge defiantly to change traditional custom and morale which have been used as a social apparatus to oppress female mentality and then finally overcome their own destinies.
·Society not based on Confucian ideas
·Society totally based on Confucian ideas
:easy to find a job as a woman
·Mobility→'travel' culture, allowing women to ander
·Describing women of many different social classes such as a waitress working at a cafe
·Non-mobility→ It's not easy for women to find a way out
·Mainly describing Korean elite women
·Weak tendency to the consciousness for 'recovering motherhood'
·Strong tendency to the consciousness for 'recovering motherhood'
『Horoki』and『Ukikumo』, 『Bankiku』, describing the rest life of aging Geisya, as well show us female characters who do not live with their own family like the traditonal women in Japan but who do manage their own lives outside of the family barrier. Hayasi Humikko thought that the main reason for being a miserable woman is due to the Japanese marriage system which is used as a means to oppress women to be stuck in its own boundary. She consistently portrays figures of women who constantly try to find their own meaning of true happiness and real life with strong self-consciousness, getting out of Japanese traditonal morale standard.
In her best known novels; 『Jimaek』,『Inmaek』and 『Cheonmaek』, Choi Jeong-hui raises several controversial issues that happen to be produced in the processes of seeking new ways of life to be an independent woman such as structural contradictions in Korean society, women's legal status, socially biased discrimination toward illegitimate children and women's labor. This can be understood as her own way to express her strong female consciousness against the feudalistic society in general.
What Choi Jeong-hui wanted to deal with in her works consistently is the theme of ‘love(愛)’. Female characters in her novels usually being burdened by social contradictions, tend to regain their‘lives(生)’which were in the middle of long-lasting wandering through recovering motherhood. In other words, it seems that Choi Jeong-hui intends to present the new 'way' of 'life' to overcome their miserable destiny with the restoration of the motherhood.
This is summary of the announced paper at International Comperative Literature Association Conference in 2003/2004 Hong Kong.