Organized Panel Session
While resistance to colonialism is conventionally viewed as an assertion of fixed local identity against foreign influence, Korean anti-colonialism was often inspired by internationalism and the modern reinvention of identity. This paper examines the role played by the translated works of Turgenev, Ibsen, Marx, Krupskaya and Kollontai in the radical politics of Korean female identity in the 1920s and 30s. Korean readers were curious about the new society being created in Russia after the 1917 revolution and followed with great interest both the ideas of leading socialist women and the practical policies implemented by the Zhenotdel such as childcare, abortion, and female literacy education. While the socialist idea of love as women’s liberation excited great interest, it faced plenty of opposition. Even prominent leftist women like Hŏ Jŏng-suk and Chu Se-juk came under pressure to circumscribe their language around love as sexual and personal liberation, and their conduct when their male partners were in prison was especially scrutinised. This battle heightened the importance of translation, as the feminist potential of female characters in the novels of Ibsen and Turgenev was either accentuated or, as was ultimately the case, diminished to cement an ideal of comradely heterosexual love that prioritised female faithfulness. Given the ideological predominance of patriarchal romance in leftist Korean literature, it is important to rediscover the efforts of those who sought a more radical potential in love.