Korean Literature Night

Wednesday May 3, 2023
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Please join us for a celebration of Korean literature. Professor Bruce Fulton (UBC) and Kwon Youngmin (Seoul National University and the UC Berkeley) will discuss The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories, the first book of Korean literature to be published by Penguin England, edited by Professor Fulton with an Introduction by Professor Kwon.

Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton will discuss Togani, their translation of Gong Jiyoung’s bestselling novel of that name, which with the film version, Silenced, resulted in the Togani Laws (도가니 법), which strengthened the penalties for abuse of special-needs children.

UBC students will present short readings from their recently published translations of stories by science fiction writer Kim Ch’oyŏp (김초엽).

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

About The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories

This eclectic, moving and richly enjoyable collection is the essential introduction to Korean literature.

Journeying through Korea’s dramatic recent past, from the Japanese occupation and colonial era to the devastating war between north and south and the rapid, disorienting urbanization of later decades, The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories captures a hundred years of vivid storytelling.

Here are peddlers and donkeys travelling across moonlit fields; artists drinking and debating in the tea-houses of 1920s Seoul; soldiers fighting for survival; exiles from the war who can never go home again; and lonely men and women searching for connection in the dizzying modern city. The collection features stories by some of Korea’s greatest writers, including Pak Wanso, O Chonghui and Cho Chongnae, as well as many brilliant contemporary voices, such as P’yon Hyeyong, Han Yujoo and Kim Aeran. Curated by Bruce Fulton, this is a volume that will surprise, unsettle and delight.

About Togani

Atmospheric and fast-paced, this novel of manners set in a provincial South Korean city leads readers through the silent corridors of a school for hearing-impaired children and the city’s foggy back streets and murky centers of power to a stirring courtroom climax. Gong Ji-young’s Togani (The Crucible), published in Korean in 2009, is based on a historic case of child sexual abuse at a state-run institution. The novel went on to sell nearly a million copies and, along with a 2011 film adaptation directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, prompted the South Korean National Assembly to pass the “Togani Laws” to provide greater legal protections for children and vulnerable adults under state care and harsher penalties for those convicted of their abuse. At a time when Korean popular culture drives cultural production worldwide, Togani reminds us of the power of fiction to effect meaningful societal change.

A story of courage in the face of corruption, Togani offers nuanced portraits of a failed young businessman seeking a new life as a teacher and his counterpart, a young woman committed to a career in human rights; a police officer of humble origins who rose through the ranks as he turns a blind eye to the abuse of students by the school’s administrators; and a hearing-impaired teenage girl, a victim of that abuse, who cares deeply for the other children at the school.The book testifies to the legacy of neo-Confucian class conflict, gender disparity, and the vulnerability of those near the bottom of the social ladder. It is a heart-wrenching and provocative work that helped bring about change to a system it dared to challenge.


Bruce Fulton is Young-Bin Min Chair in Korean Literature and Literary Translation and Associate Professor at the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia.

Ju-Chan Fulton is a translator of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction.

Kwon Youngmin is emeritus Professor of Korean literature at Seoul National University and Adjunct Professor of Korean literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written and edited numerous volumes of literary history, literary criticism and reference works on modern Korean literature, as well as the CD-ROM 100 Years of Modern Korean Literature. He is the managing editor of the monthly journal Munhak sasang (“Literature and Thought”).