[KS] Rags-to-riches in Korean literature?

Gary Mackelprang gary at cadurx.com
Thu Dec 22 18:08:01 EST 2005


I'm new to the list and have been lurking in the background for several
months, afraid to contribute.

I'll introduce myself by taking a chance here and suggesting that
perhaps Heo Jun (1546-1615) would qualify as a "rags-to-riches"
archetype. As I recall, he was born to a concubine, but rose to a
position of prominence (court physician) during Seonjo's reign and
authored the widely acclaimed Dong eui bo gam (sorry--I learned McCune
Reischauer and am struggling with the new Romanization).  

Although not strictly a literary figure, he has nevertheless maintained
position of prominence in contemporary Korean culture and has been the
topic of at least one TV docudrama and a historical novel, I believe.


Gary Mackelprang
Cell       (801) 870-8500
Office    (801) 939-9999
Fax       (801) 939-9998
gary at cadurx.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws
[mailto:Koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] On Behalf Of Stefan Ewing
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 12:25 PM
To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject: Re: [KS] Rags-to-riches in Korean literature?

Dear KS List Members:

Brother Anthony wrote:

>An interesting question would be whether, given the cheating associated

>with the Gwageo exam, and the fact that it was only open to those of 
>Yangban birth, anyone ever saw it as opening the way to social

Perhaps for "country yangban" (_sigol yangban_?)?  Given the ebb and
flow of 
family favour depending on who held influence in the royal court, there
have been at least a few people born into relatively poor yangban
far away from the power centre of Hanso^ng in such places as Andong,
Anso^ng, or Anju, who wrote and passed the civil service exam, and 
eventually rose to fame and influence.

I'm perhaps the least knowledgeable person here on Korean literature,
but as 
a docudramatic example, I recall the character Yi/Ri/Li Sukpo^n (played
So^n Tonghyo^k) in the 1996-98 KBS teledrama _Tears of the Dragon_
Nunmul_).  He rose from evident obscurity in Anso^ng (born to the
Yi/Ri/Li clan), passed the civil service exam with flying colours
to the drama), took his first official post as commissioner of Ansan
(_Ansangunjisa_), and eventually became the future T'aejong's right-hand

man--described on one website as "Yi Pangwo^n's kingmaker."

(I have no idea how much or what is written of him in the annals on
the drama is based, however, or how much his story was embellished for
Nor do I know what his clan's status was at the time, but his origins
certainly presented in the drama as being thoroughly provincial in

Wishing all the best in the holiday season and the coming year,
Yours sincerely,
Stefan Ewing

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