This article considers the politics of representing “Korea” in Japanese-language texts, focusing specifically on the work of “Zainichi” writer Kim Sŏkpŏm (1925–). The author begins by identifying parallels between what Kim calls “the spellbinding of language” (kotoba no jubaku) and the unresolved debate over Frederic Jameson’s statement that “all third-world texts are necessarily . . . national allegories.” Kim’s “spellbinding” refers to the dual impossibilities faced by postcolonial Korean writers in Japan, who can neither maintain a distance from the Japanese language nor take full and unquestioned ownership of it. This double bind is echoed by the discourse on national allegory, with its simultaneous impulses to avoid reifying the categories of first world and third world as incommensurably “different,” while also combatting a Eurocentric universalism that fails to acknowledge productive, nonessentialist difference. The author examines Kim Sŏkpŏm’s specific solutions to this critical impasse in his works of fiction, particularly Karasu no shi (The Death of a Crow, 1957) and Mandogi yūrei kitan (The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost, 1970), demonstrating that Kim is able to destabilize the Japanese language of his novels by creating a tension between the main text and the fragments of Korean language embedded within. In this way, Kim carves out a space for the performance of a Korean identity that is ultimately only imaginary, and it is through this process that a potentially empowering identification with an explicitly imagined Korean “nation” can be forged.
Representing Radical Difference: Kim Sŏkpŏm’s Korea(n) in Japan(ese)
Cindi Textor is an assistant professor of Japanese literature and culture at the University of Utah. Her publications include the article “Queer(ing) Language in Yi Kwangsu’s Mujŏng: Sexuality, Nation, and Colonial Modernity” in the Journal of Korean Studies and a translation of Kim Sŏkpŏm’s The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost (2010).
Cindi Textor; Representing Radical Difference: Kim Sŏkpŏm’s Korea(n) in Japan(ese). positions 1 August 2019; 27 (3): 499–529. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7539290
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