The Korean Vernacular Story

Telling Tales of Contemporary Chosŏn in Sinographic Writing

Si Nae Park

Columbia University Press

The Korean Vernacular Story

Pub Date: July 2020

ISBN: 9780231195423

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£54.00

Pub Date: July 2020

ISBN: 9780231551328

304 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£54.00

The Korean Vernacular Story

Telling Tales of Contemporary Chosŏn in Sinographic Writing

Si Nae Park

Columbia University Press

As the political, economic, and cultural center of Chosŏn Korea, eighteenth-century Seoul epitomized a society in flux: It was a bustling, worldly metropolis into which things and people from all over the country flowed. In this book, Si Nae Park examines how the culture of Chosŏn Seoul gave rise to a new vernacular literary form, with a vision of catering to a larger audience.

The vernacular story (yadam) flourished in the nineteenth century as anonymously and unofficially circulating tales by and for Chosŏn people. The Korean Vernacular Story focuses on the pivotal role that the collection Repeatedly Recited Stories of the East (Tongp’ae naksong) played in shaping yadam, analyzing the collection’s language and composition and tracing its reception and circulation. Park situates its compiler, No Myŏnghŭm, in Seoul’s cultural scene, examining how he developed a sense of belonging in the course of transforming from a poor provincial scholar to an urbane literary figure. No wrote his tales not in cosmopolitan Literary Sinitic but instead in a new medium in which Literary Sinitic is hybridized with the vernacular realities of Chosŏn society. Park contends that this linguistic innovation to represent tales of contemporary Chosŏn inspired readers not only to circulate No’s works but also to emulate and cannibalize them in creating contemporary literary modes.

The first book in English on the origins of yadam, The Korean Vernacular Story combines historical insight, textual studies, and the history of the book. By highlighting the role of negotiation with Literary Sinitic, it challenges the script (han’gŭl)-focused understanding of Korean language and literature.
The first full-length examination of the yadam genre, The Korean Vernacular Story examines the literary and social milieu in late Chosŏn Seoul. Using meticulous research, Park forms arguments that will certainly serve as the foundation for further research. Michael J. Pettid, Binghamton University

About the Author

Si Nae Park is associate professor of East Asian languages and civilizations at Harvard University.