Broken Strings

20th Century Korean Literature

Book 1
Literature Translation Institute of Korea

 Kang’s first work, “Broken Strings,” reveals the concerns and inclinations that would come to characterize her writing. The main character Hyeong-cheol stands at a crossroads: take the well-trodden path down which his future is guaranteed, or stand with the masses and fight society. After agonizing over this choice, he throws everything away and leaves for Manchuria. With its cast of characters who sacrifice their youth in Gando to devote themselves to the people’s struggle, this story demonstrates Kang’s sense of duty as a writer who wanted to change the world. The stories published after “Broken Strings”—“Salt,” “Mother and Child,” “Suffering,” and “Darkness”—were likewise set in Gando and reflect her revolutionary yearnings.
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About the author

 Kang Kyung-ae (1906 – 1944) was a leading writer, feminist, and labor activist during the colonial era. After publishing her short story “Broken Strings” in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in 1931, she migrated to Gando, a.k.a. Jiandao in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of northern China. As a result, much of her writing dealt with the local communist movement and anti-Japanese resistance fighters. By depicting the poverty experienced by ethnic Koreans living in Gando, Kang’s works exposed the dark side of colonialism while giving voice to the resistance.

The most important feature of Kang’s work is her authentic, unembellished depictions of the era and the lives of the people: she neither whitewashes nor distorts. The tragic lives of the lowest rungs of society and the difficult lives of the impoverished are depicted vividly and realistically. From Wonso Pond, a novel that deals with conflicts between tenant farmers and pro-Japanese collaborators, conflicts between capitalists and workers, and the purposeful struggle of the laboring masses, captures the writer’s revolutionary ideology. Her other works, which include “Dismissal,” “The Underground Village,” and “Drugs,” all explore similar themes.

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Additional Information

Literature Translation Institute of Korea
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Published on
Dec 11, 2013
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Literary Collections / Asian / General
Literary Collections / General
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