[KS] Re: Yuldo

Walter K. Lew Lew at HUMnet.UCLA.EDU
Mon Feb 28 08:38:52 EST 2000

I applaud John Frankl not only for his willingness to go back to his texts
and perhaps inform us of interesting variants (and maybe also some of the
contextual pressures and possibilities that generated them), but also for
his admirable honesty abt his motives as (if he will allow me) a
post-_minjung_ critic.

I wd like to make two brief suggestions:

1. The tale has a previous history of being read as anti-colonial allegory
long before the 1980s;

2. Interpretation is inherently "anachronistic," to use Frankl's term,
despite all hermeneutic efforts to reach some type of objectivity; my
exasperation w Frankl's first post was NOT that he had to be dead wrong abt
the tale's *ideology*, but that he seemed to have distorted what we as a
reading community need to presume: that we are generally working w the same
basic text. Since "anachronism" is a negative term and applies to all cases
of interpretation, I suggest that we drop it for more complex analyses of
what readers and teachers do when they recontextualize a well-known text
(or a text made well-known by its inherently transforming cultural

Otherwise, Frankl's own reading of the tale "as one man changing the one
thing keeping him from elite status and not a levelling of status/class
itself" cd hardly survive the accusations of anachronism and historical
bias that he points at his ROK professors.  I am referring, of course, to
his just-as thoroughly ideologized rendition of Hong Kil-tong as "one man,"
i.e. the Individual, able to exist outside of larger issues of class
conflict, free of symbolic relations to his social group, and ultimately
referring only to "himself." A *novel* reading in more than one sense of
the term!

Respectfully, Walter K. Lew

>Thanks to both Frank Hoffmann and Walter Lew for their replies.
>I plead guilty to both of the above, more to the former. I originally
>ended my post with a lengthy question about "ibon" or alternate versions
>of the tale, but, unfortunately, opted to delete it. Ch'unhyang-chon,
>for example, has, I believe, somewhere in the low-teens. But I will go
>back to the version of Hong Kiltong chon I have and quote or repent as
>each passage warrants.
>As for intention,
>mine was also to shed some light on misinterpretation. Mine may be a
>reaction to my own late-80s/early-90s schooling in Korea (South) where at
>the time I was often treated to anachronistic readings of the tale as an
>instance of socialist revolution, etc. I saw it more as one man changing
>the one thing keeping him from elite status and not a levelling of
>status/class itself.
>John Frankl

Walter K. Lew
11811 Venice Blvd.  #138
Los Angeles, CA  90066


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