Literature has existed since time immemorial in all countries and or cultures. But with time it was and it has been distorted deliberately or unknowingly by other cultures. This paper or essay analyzes the Korean literature during the colonial time or period. The Koreans were under the brutal Japanese colonists and they had used disability figuratively to mock their colonizers and capture the wider audience of their fellow Koreans for a possible resistance.
The Colonial Period
During this colonial period, physical disabilities as a metaphor were very common and were used by the Koreans to expose the Japanese brutality. Many actors of the time depicted and acted using physical and mental disabilities during the colonial times and they did reduce dramatically after independence. But the afterward reduction is attributed to the reconstruction that took effect after independence. During the colonial period the Japanese had messed up the Koreans’ economic and social life hence the Korean literature intellectuals used disability to circumscribe the Japanese brutality. It was not true that thousands of Koreans were disabled, even the writers or the actors were not disabled but they had used this as an indirect way to show their own people how they were socially and economically paralyzed by their colonizers. (Mitchell and Snyder) state that, “Authors from colonial Korea wrote about disability yet they were not disabled and the proportion of many Koreans was not either disabled…9”.
This was a sure way of invoking and driving the point home because the blind, lame, deaf, etc are hindered to do some activities the same way the brutal Japanese colonizers had hindered the Koreans to perform various economic and social activities. In the film The Aimless Bullet even Chul-Ho’s mother is portrayed as mentally unstable, “Chul-Ho had a meager to salary to support his mentally unstable mother”. They (Koreans) had been censured by the Japanese. Immediately after independence and the subsequent years, the Korean economy and social life developed very fast which shows how they had come out of the crippling conditions that had been imposed by the Japanese. They were no longer disabled.
This literary pieces of disabilities was typically political which was mocking the Japanese indirectly and expressing how the Koreans had been impaired or disabled by them. The disabled struggle to make ends meet the same way the Koreans struggled to change their social lives as (Hyun-Mok 1960) depicted in the film The Aimless Bullet, “With so many mouths to feed Chul-Ho deems it necessary to avoid seeing a dentist to clear his tooth aching problem”. Different disabilities may have represented or presented different problems. However, much later Korean intellectuals opposed the use of disabilities as was used in the colonial period because it seemed the disabled could be discriminated. Nevertheless this proved the best way the Koreans had used to criticize the colonists. “There was an inseparable relationship between the literary imagination and the historical and political situation of Koreans as colonized subjects. The trope of disability surfaced largely within a sociopolitical perspective that emerged in response to a sense of national crisis” (Choi 438).
Even though the Koreans were under siege from and by the Japanese, they were able to demonstrate their superb ability of literature in which they acted as people with disabilities to drive the point home. This has led to proper respect for the physically people and given equal opportunities like any other citizen to show that, the literary collections of 1900s to 1930s was just a sociopolitical metaphor that indirectly criticized the brutality of the colonists- the Japanese. This was one method that was used by the Koreans to agitate for independence and it worked by first inciting citizens.
Choi, Kyeong-Hee. “Impaired Body as Colonial Trope: Kang Kyong’ae’s Underground Village”. Public Culture. Vol. 13, No. 3. (2001): 431-443.
Hyun-Mok, Yu “Director”. The Aimless Bullet. Korea Cinema, 1960.
Mitchell, David, T and Snyder, Sharon, L. The Body and Physical Differences: Discourses of Disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.