Archive of “the people’s memories”
Hwang Sun-Won’s writing encompasses sixty years of history, spanning events such as the occupation of Korea by Japan, liberation, and national division. Even if we were to discuss his works alone, from his debut in 1931 with the poem “My Dream” to his short story “Rain Shower” (1953), extending through to his last novel Dice of the Gods (1982) and his return to poetry with “On Death” (1992), his writing spans over sixty years. As a result, his writing is an archive of “the people’s memories,” (Yu Jongho) and constitutes such an enormous body of work that it approaches being what Kwon Youngmin has described as “the entire history of Korean literature after liberation.”
Born in 1915 in Taedong, South Pyongan Province, Hwang began his literary career with the publication of “My Dream” in the journal Eastern Light (Donggwang) in July 1931. After that, he graduated from Osan Middle School in 1934, and left for Tokyo to attend Waseda High School. In the same year, together with Lee Haerang, Kim Dongwon, and others, he established a performing arts collective called the Tokyo Student Arts Group. Hwang’s first poetry collection, Wayward Songs (Bangga, 1934), included “My Dream” and twenty-six other poems. In particular, he writes about the wild romantic passion of the teenage years in a fiery and resolute tone, just as Yang Ju-dong (writing under the penname Mu-ae) had done in Seomun.
Tokyo Student Arts Group
When performing a survey of Hwang Sun-Won’s literary relationships, the first group that must be considered is the Tokyo Student Arts Group. This was a theater collective established in Tokyo in 1934 for Korean students studying there, and it launched a theatrical reform movement. Students majoring in literature, drama, and film contemplated their concerns, and eventually, Park Dong-geun, Hwang Sun-Won, and thirteen others developed a new arts movement that had as its goals sound theatrical development and the stirring of the people’s spirit. They published the first bulletin in the history of Korean university theater, titled Act (Mak). Under the slogan, “the new theater of Joseon will begin with original scripts,” their first performance was held in June 1935 at the Tsukiji Small Theatre, where the Japanese theater reform movement had begun. The theater company grew and matured while staging Ju Yeongseop’s one-act play, Naru, and Yu Chijin’s three-act play, The Ox, but was disbanded in 1940 due to a crackdown by the Japanese government.
Surrealist leanings: Three Four Literature club