Choi Seo-hae (1901-1932) is one of the major writers of early proletarian literature from the 1920s. Designated as the first of the Anti-Conventional School, Choi’s works heralded the arrival of a new kind of Literature of Poverty in the history of Korean literature.
Born in Seongjin in North Hamgyeong Province in 1901, Choi grew up in extreme poverty. He wandered the Gando area from an early age, leading a rock-bottom existence, but despite a lack of formal education, he had a burning desire to pursue literature. He was able to debut as a writer when “Homeland” was published in Chosun Mundan in 1924 on the recommendation of the writer and activist Yi Kwang-su.
His representative works, such as “Escape,” “Hunger and Slaughter,” “The Death of Bakdol,” “Seizing the Big Water,” “The Tyrant,” and “Bloody Flames,” take as their subjects struggling destitute characters who reject the established order and pursue survival through murder and arson. Although his vivid descriptions about poverty that have been borne of his personal experience are striking, the abrupt leaps in exposition tend to undermine the overall artistic composition.