Organized Panel Session
South Korea was alleged to be isolated from the May 1968 Movement and fierce demonstrations exploding on streets around the world, in spite of the fact that many journalists and intellectuals in South Korea attempted to illuminate upon its political significance. Closer examination reveals that many students and intellectuals in Korean society of the time embraced the so-called “’68 spirit” (68 chǒngsin) and wrestled with notions of “counter-culture,” inspired as they were by the Euro-American hippies’ lifestyle and cultural ways. Before the youth culture (ch’ǒngnyǒn munhwa) of the mid-1970s when Korea exploded under the influence of dissident movements in the West, there had been precedents of counter-culture in Korea—much of which was driven by college students and a post-Korean War generation of intellectuals. This paper engages with those moments by examining the works of poet Hwang Tong-gyu, critic Kim Byung-Ik, and writer Ch’oe In-ho. Ch’oe’s “The Other Room” (1971), in particular, was the first and only psychedelic literature in Korean literary history. I argue that many writers tried to not only challenge the elitist hierarchy by actively promoting the notion of the popular in literature, but also attempted to embrace sexual freedom, often through vulgar representations of free sex. Their efforts were often contained by patriarchal norms of the male-oriented society of the time. Nonetheless, the counter-culture as envisioned through literary representations of sexual freedom in popular literary works reveals the cultural resonance of the ’68 spirit and the dilemmas that attended acts of subversion against the Establishment.