Cho Myung-hee (1894~1938) was born in 1894 in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, as the son of a poor scholar. His pen name was Poseok. He graduated from Jungang High School in Seoul and studied philosophy at Toyo University in Japan. In 1919 he was arrested and jailed for participating in the March 1st Movement. He first established himself as an author in 1925 with the publication of “Into the Ground” in Gaebyeok magazine, and published his most representative short story “The Nakdong River” (1927) in Joseonjigwang magazine.
He went into exile in 1928 in the Maritime Province of Siberia in the Soviet Union in order to escape the Japanese crackdown. In 1934, he served as an executive of the Far East chapter of the Soviet Union of Writers and also published his epic poem, “Goryeo Trampled.” He was arrested by the Soviet military police in 1937 and deported to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. In 1938, he was reportedly executed by firing squad at a Khabarovsk prison. His publications include a collection of poems, On a Spring Lawn, and a collection of stories, Into the Ground.
Cho Myung-hee is a representative writer of the Japanese colonial period who followed the communist ideologies of KAPF (Korean Federation of Proletarian Art) and fiercely depicted in literature the dark reality of farm life in those days.
The dialogue between the protagonist who considers himself a skeptic and a cabaret worker, Eura, who says, “I always think I just want to die,” is the main storyline of this short story. This work effectively describes the desolate inner sentiments, feelings, and skepticism of the protagonist who travels to Harbin and the sorrowful sentimentality of the city. In addition, “Harbin” impressively portrays that the Second World War, which broke out in 1939, greatly influenced the city of Harbin, which was located in Northeast China at the time. This is evident especially in the lines describing the closed French and Dutch Consulates on Kitai Tverskaya, the main street of Harbin where Russian stores and Western style buildings are located. The theme of this work seems to be the sorrow of an intellect under colonization, feeling only fundamentally skeptical and depressed, even while conversing with a beautiful waitress at the exotic Harbin’s hotel, cabaret, and café where Tchaikovsky’s chamber music plays.