Organized Panel Session
This presentation examines the significance and limitations of overcoming hardships in an enclosed space of ‘Ssaritgol,’ during the Korean War. Sŏnu Hwi's The Myth of Ssaritgol is a mythical story of how the people of Ssaritgol, a village in the backwoods near the 38th parallel, hides seven South Korean soldiers who had fallen behind from the North Korean Army for a hundred days, ultimately succeeding in saving them all. Four years after the publication of the novel, it was made into an anti-communist film by Yi Man-hŭi under the same title. This presentation will first compare the meaning of 'closed space' in Korean literature and Western literature; then compare the two versions of the The Myth of Ssaritgol.
The Myth of Ssaritgol is often compared to Camus' The Plague in that it depicts the struggles of people in an enclosed space. As Ian Watt has pointed out, exploring man’s actions in an enclosed space is a literary convention of the West. The fact that ‘enclosed space’ is closely related to imperialism and individualism of the West underlines the assertion The Myth of Ssaritgol seems to be making, of the superiority of primitive communities in terms of individual behavior. Such assertion can be read in relation to the fact that Koreans were unable to build a nation-state by themselves. This presentation will show how the space of ‘Ssaritgol’ changes from the mythical to the historical, by comparing the difference between the literary and the filmic renditions of ‘enclosed space’ and narrative development.