supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
(International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth) Any advertisement you view helps save the environment!  Thanks!


Countries / Regions


Viewer's Corner

Publish your story on - Personal experiences, opinions, articles, or any information related to Asia.  More Info...


Asianinfo Photo Gallery
Photos of Asia now available for purchase 

FREE Photos available!

IMG_0122 copy.JPG (69431 bytes)




Hong Kong







Korea Main Page


Korean Literature 

Early Korean literature was heavily influenced by Shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism.  The early literature, which began as an oral tradition, depicted a love of nature and man and held that man was a part of nature.  Good was rewarded and evil was punished and values like loyalty to the King, filial piety, respect for one's elders, true friendship and chastity were emphasized.  Some of the earliest Korean writings were poems, called hyangga, written during the Shilla Kingdom using the script type Idu partially adapted from Chinese characters phonetically, only 25 remain.  During the Koryo period, Korean literature of the upper class, mostly written in classical Chinese, was characterized by an emphasis on philosophic expositions on the Chinese classics, an art that was essential for government service, the only respectable avenue to success outside of teaching.

Scholarly essays and diaries of scholars an court ladies compose one strain of the literature of this time.  Also during this period, hanshi, poems in Chinese characters, developed to maturity, and toward the end of the dynasty, a new form of poetry called shijo gained wide acceptance.  The shijo, a short three-line poem written in Han-gul (the Korean alphabet), remained popular throughout the Choson Dynasty, as did the later kasa, a new vernacular verse genre which was more descriptive and expository.  The Choson period also saw a great outpouring of literature written in Han-gul which often centered on the concept that all men are equal and attacked social inequality, spurred by the introduction of Sirhak (Practical Learning) in the 17th century.  


The predecessor of this genre was Hong Kil-ton Chon, generally considered to be the first Korean novel, written in the early 17th century to criticize the inequalities of Choson society.  This trend was reinforced during the late 19th century by the introduction of Western influences, as writers were inspired by ideas of enlightenment, freedom and independence.  Modern writers have also focused on social injustice, particularly under the authoritarian regimes, as well as the dehumanizing influence of industrialization and modernization.

Traditional: Korean literature shows a significant difference before and after Western influences.  In the pre-Western period, literature was influenced by Shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism.  Under these influences, individuals accepted the status quo and had a fatalistic view of life.  Early literature depicted a love of nature and man and held that nature and man are one.  Another special aspect of the early period of Korean literature was that it began as an oral tradition.  Therefore, many literary works, also tales and legends sung or spoken by the ancestors of various Korean tribes, were presented at tribal rites, religious festivals, sacrifices and political gatherings.  

 Influenced by social norms, morals and customs, in Korean literature good is rewarded and evil is punished.  Early literature stresses behavior patterns like loyalty to the king, filial piety, respect for seniors, true friendship and chastity of women.

More...  Back to Top...

Modern: After western influences, modern Korean literature has shown dissent both political and moral, and has deviated from traditionally restricted subject matters to encompass varied themes.  The first Korean writing was produced in the Shilla Kingdom in the 8th century. 

 The script-type language partially adapted from Chinese letters by phonetic sounding was called Idu.  Only 25 poems called Hyangga remain in this style.  During the Koryo Dynasty, a popular type of verse called Longer Verses came into fashion.  At the latter part of the dynasty, a new kind of lyric, shijo, gained popularity.  The shijo usually consisted of three-line stanzas conveying compact messages.  After the Han-gul alphabet was invented, various kinds of love-poetry were attempted.

  In the mid-Choson Period, the lyrical form known as kasa was widely composed.  Written in Chinese as a kind of typical Korean lyric verse, the literati expressed their attachment to the beauties of nature through their kasa.  After the introduction of Sirhak (Practical Learning) in the 17th and 18th centuries, Western influence brought new developments to Korean literature, often through Christianity.

  The concept that all men are equal became a common theme and attacked the inequality of traditional society.  Once great change in the literature field was the outpouring of works in Han-gul.  Authorship also diversified from the literati to commoners.

New Stories of the Golden Turtle written in Chinese by Kim Shi-sup (1435-1493) is usually regarded as the beginning of fiction in Korea.  Only the first book. containing five stories, survives today.  The stories are marked by Korean settings and tragic endings in contrast wit the Chinese settings and romantic happy endings that characterized earlier works.  Ho Kyun's King Kil-ton Chon is considered the first vernacular novel.  Written in the 17th century, it is a social commentary that attacks the inequalities of Choson society. In the 19th century, p'ansori, or the "one man opera" form gained popularity.  P'ansori were tales sung by professional artists to an outdoor audience.  The text of p'ansori usually contained satirical messages that lampooned the upper class.

More...  Back to Top...

In the years before and after annexation by Japan in 1910, the new national consciousness depicted through the medium of literature was written in Han-gul called shinmunhak or new literature.  Ch'oe Nam-son published the inspiring poem,  From the sea to a child, in the magazine Sonyon (Child) in 1908, giving birth to modern poetry or free verse in Korea.  Also, Yi Kwang-su started to write modern novels in the magazine Ch'ongch'un (Youth) in 1914, and his contribution to modern Korean literature is highly regarded.

  Up to the late 1960s, creative talents expressed themselves in the genre.  Favorite themes were social injustice, the dehumanizing influence of industrialization and modernization.  Works of noted writers such as Yi Mun-yol and Han Mu-suk have been translated into various foreign languages including English and French.  Since the quality of writings and translations continues to rise, in the near future it is hoped that the works of Korean writers will be appreciated in other countries as much as they are in Korea. 



Click Here... supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
(International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth) Any advertisement you view helps save the environment!  Thanks!


Cheap Airline Tickets

Discount Hotels

Rental Car Deals




Disclaimer: does not guarantee the complete accuracy of the information provided on this site or links.  Do your own research and get a professional's opinion before adhering to advice or information contained herein.  Use of the information contained herein provided by and any mistakes contained within are at the individual risk of the user. 

(We do not provide links to, or knowingly promote, any violent or pornographic sites.)

Suggestions  |  Organization Info  |  Become a Sponsor Privacy Statement

 Copyright 2010 - All Rights Reserved.- Copyright Policy