Yi Kwang-su and Leo Tolstoy
- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) and Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) were both writers.
Tolstoy was one of the great Russian writers, and you should have
read his "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina."
Tolstoy spent his teenage years in the Volga city of Kazan, about 800 km east of Moscow. There are many pretty girls in Kazan (I saw many of them when I was there). Tolstoy learned there what the love is all about. He was a student at Kazan State University, but was expelled because he was not interested in studying. He was just fooling around with the girls. Click here for my Kazan webpage.
- Yi Kwang-su was a Korean writer, and he is famous for his romance novels.
Before 1910, it was not socially acceptable for Korean girls to talk to boys.
Things gradually changed, and Korean men and women started exchanging love letters.
Thus, it became a profitable business for Korean writers to sell their romance
stories. Among those many writers, only one of them is still remembered and
admired by all Koreans. His name was Yi Kwang-su.
Leo Tolstoy was 69 years old
- It is generally agreed that he was heavily influenced by Leo Tolstoy. Some
of his romance stories are said to be simple variations Tolstoy's Anna
Karenina. This means that the Korean romance biology is the same as
that of Russians.
Nobody taught me about this, but I found out by talking with Russian ladies after 1990. Since 1990, I have been making frequent trips to Russia and other Slavic countries, including Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and Czech Republic.
In order to make a long story short, I would like to invite you to a webpage consisting more than 450 photo of myself with Russian and Ukrainian ladies.
Click here for the webpage. You will see why Yi Kwang-su's romance stories are so popular among Koreans.
- In spite of his important contribution to Korean literature, Yi Kwang-su is a controversial figure among Koreans. First all, he produced a document insulting the Korean race. Secondly, he encouraged Korean young men to join the Japanese army. Let us examine these issues carefully.
Choonwon Yi Kwang-su
Yi Kwang-su in his study, and|
his grave in Pyongyang.
- In 1910, when Yi was 18 years old, Japan annexed the Korean peninsula into
their territory. 1919, Yi Kwang-su was a student at Waseda University in
Tokyo. Encouraged by Woodrow Wilson's 14-point declaration, a group of
Koreans in Tokyo gathered and declared Korea's independence on February
8, 1919. He was in that group and wrote his declaration of independence.
Japanese authorities did not like those Koreans and expelled them from Japan. Yi went to Shanghai to join the Korean provisional government there, but he was disillusioned. He came back to Korea and decided to cooperate with Japanese. He thought this was the only way to enlighten Koreans. He then published an article called "Minjok Gaejoron" (How to remake the Korean race?) which angered many Koreans. This document still remains controversial among Koreans.
North Korea's Kim Il-Sung was interested in getting Yi Kwang-su on his side along with many other Korean talented Koreans in the South. In 1950, while Seoul was under the communist occupation, Kim ordered a Korean poet named Ri Chan to escort Yi to Pyongyang, and he did, but Yi died soon after in the North. His grave is now in Pyongyang.
Who was Ri Chan? He composed the lyrics of the Song of General Kim Il-Sung. He was Yi Kwang-su's student and learned many things from him before 1945.
You may click on this figure for a larger image. This is the song of General Kim Il-Sung I received from NK propaganda agency in 1965. This does not tell who the composer was. Why could they not tell the name?
- Who then composed the music of this song? North Korean authorities say
the composer was Kim Won-Gyun. Yes, he composed their national anthem in
1948, and served as the th founding president of the
Pyongyang Academy of Music. It is not true.
The real composer was Kim Dong-Jin well known and admired in the South. Kim Dong-Jin was in Pyongyang in 1945 and was ordered by Soviet Army authorities to compose the music in 1946 and he did. However, he hated communists so much that he came to the South as soon as the (south) Korean troops reached Pyongyang in October of 1950. He died in 2009. In the South, he was not in a position to bragg about North Korea's No. 1 song.
North Korean authorities could not tell their song was composed by a traitor. Thus, their music was without the composer's name for many years, until Kim Jung-Il faked in Kim Won-Gyun's name. Click here for the music without the composer's name.
This picture is from one of NK's propaganda booklets. Kim Il-Sung's mother was a devoted Christian. Thus, she must be telling a Bible story to him.
- In his later years, North Korea's Kim Il-Sung became somewhat grown up.
Perhaps he was remorseful about what he did as a puppet of Stalin and Beria.
He wrote a number of articles indicating that he wanted to be identified as
one of the Korean nationalists, and that he wanted to go to heaven in the
way he learned from his mother who was a devoted Christian. You will be
interested what he said about Ahn Chang-Ho, and Yi Kwang-su.
- Kim Il-Sung talks about Yi Kwang-su
in his article about Ahn Chang-Ho and
other Koreans whose names are familiar to us. This is a 600kb pdf file.
It may may take more than ten seconds to open the file.
- Click here for Kim Il-Sung's Christian background. This is also a heavy pdf file.
- Kim Il-Sung talks about Yi Kwang-su in his article about Ahn Chang-Ho and other Koreans whose names are familiar to us. This is a 600kb pdf file. It may may take more than ten seconds to open the file.
- In his Minjok Gaejoron, Yi Kwang-su listed a number of weaknesses Koreans
have, and explained them in detail. I read this article when I was
in high school, but I cannot recollect all the items listed there, except
one. He said Koreans could not become world-class persons because
Koreans hate those who rise above them. (Seung-gi Ja reul Yom handa).
However, during my Pittsburgh days (1954-58), I was becoming a target of hatreds from my Korean friends. I suspect Yi Kwang-su was hated by his fellow Koreans while studying in Tokyo.
- When I started publishing papers from Princeton (1961) and was
becoming known to the world, the hatreds came from all over the world.
The hatred I received from my Korean friends were minimal compared with
those from my Japanese, Chinese, American, and European colleagues. In
order to describe this destructive psychology, I developed the concept of
I have not studied all the items Yi Kwang-su mentioned, but it is likely that his Korean weaknesses are shared by all the people in the world. I know Yi had a strong Buddhist background, but it is not clear whether he studied the Bible before saying negatively about his fellow Koreans.
In the Old Testament, Cain hates Abel (hatred from blow). In the New Testament, King Herod orders all the babies be murdered (hatred from above). Herod Complex!
- Thus, if you wish to become a world-class person, it is absolutely
necessary to learn how to manage the hatreds.
In the 4th Century BC, Chinese scholar named Sun Tsu (called Sonja in Korea) wrote a psychology book based on another important human instinct: to fight and win. This Suntzuism is deeply imbedded in Korean culture.
My maternal grandfather was an expert on this book, and I received an excellent education on this subject. Based on Sonja's teaching and my own experience in the competitive academic world. I was able to develop my own philosophy of competition.
- If anyone below me hates me, ignore him/her. If anyone above
me hates me, it is because I am moving ahead of him/her.
Avoid him/her. Jesus avoided Herod by going to Egypt.
- If anyone is better than I am, should I hate him/her? No!
In competition, the winner is the one who understands and
respects his/her rivals. This is the wisdom I derived from
Sonja's teaching. I have been and still am practicing this
- Americans like to win the wars, but they do not always succeed. When they fail, it is not because their country is weak, but because they do not understand their enemies.
- If anyone below me hates me, ignore him/her. If anyone above me hates me, it is because I am moving ahead of him/her. Avoid him/her. Jesus avoided Herod by going to Egypt.
- Another controversial issue. Yi Kwang-su encouraged young Koreans
to join the Japanese army when Japan was expanding the war against
China, Britain, and the United States. Many Koreans say Yi was
on the Japanese side against Koreans, but I have a different view.
It is not right to blame him on this issue.
Korea became annexed to Japan in 1910 because Korea did not have any military power. The only way for Koreans to construct their own army was to pick up the basic military skills from Japanese.
Furthermore, what Yi said did not have much impact, because Japanese drafted many Koreans to their army. In addition, they imposed the basic military training to all Korean students. In 1945, when I was ten years old, I learned how their Type 38 works. It was a very heavy (4 kg) rifle for a small boy, but was an impressive machine to me.
In 1946, Koreans started constructing their army, starting from their military skills obtained from Japanese. We still practice "kihap" in the army. My brother once served as a medical doctor in the Korean army. He told me most of the illnesses among soldiers can be treated with "kihap." This is the military culture inherited from the old Japanese army.
Yi's youngest daughter is on his lap.
Click here for what his daughter says about him these days.
- Yi Kwang-su's real contribution. When he wrote his Minjok
Gaejoron, Koreans men did not know how to write Korean sentences.
For instance, his sentence "Seung-gi Ja reul Yom handa" consists of
two Chinese words. He used "Yom" for hate, and "Seung-gi Ja" for a
person who gets ahead of yourself. Yes, while writing his romance
novels, Yi developed his style of writing Korean sentences. Koreans
now know how to write beautiful sentences. In my opinion, this is the
most significant contribution Yi Kwang-su made to his country.
- Click here for Russian romance and