From National History to Subject in Writing: Reading the Colonial Korean Poet Yoon Dong-ju with the Zainichi Korean Writer Yi Yang-ji

Astrid Lac


The year 2017 marked the centennial of the birth of the Korean poet Yoon Dong-ju (1917-1945), with numerous events held to commemorate his life and poetry in the historical context of Japanese colonial rule and Korean national resistance. Against the backdrop of this public valorisation of a private individual—celebration of the particular—I propose to highlight the properly universal question of the speaking/writing subject, which constitutes the very literary property of Yoon’s legacy. Yoon’s significance as a literary subject acquires a definite shape when he is juxtaposed with Yi Yang-ji (1955-92), a second-generation zainichi Korean writer, whose authorial strivings confronted a different historical context but nonetheless harboured the same questions that drove Yoon’s poetics. Reading side by side Yoon and Yi, I demonstrate how the problem of (post)colonial national history ought to, and can only, be finally engaged and resolved as subjective process and arrival.


Yoon Dong-ju; Yi Yang-ji; (post)colonial Korea; zainichi identity; national history; subject of language

Full Text: