Pak Chi-Won

Pak Chi-Won


(pen name Yonam). Born Mar. 5, 1737, in Seoul; died there Dec. 10, 1805. Korean writer and thinker; an important representative of sirhak, the movement for practical learning. Born into a distinguished aristocratic family of modest means.

Pak Chi-won was the first to incorporate the ideas of the sirhak movement in literature. His early prose includes “The Tale of Kwang Munja” (c. 1754) and six other short stories that were collected in An Unofficial History of the Pavilion of Panggyonggak. A realist, Pak Chi-won exposed the vices of feudal society in “The Tale of Yangban” and other works. His most important work is Jehol Diary, notes on a journey to China made in 1780; the notes were published in 26 books in the 1780’s. In this work, the author subjects the prevailing Confucian philosophy to criticism from the standpoint of natural science and attributes the economic and cultural backwardness of the country to the laziness and parasitism of the ruling yangban class. According to Pak Chi-won, it was necessary, for the good of the people, to assimilate the scientific knowledge and technological experience of other countries and to introduce such socioeconomic reforms as limiting large-scale landholding, allotting land to the peasants, eliminating class inequality, and encouraging trade and industry.

Pak Chi-won displayed his satirical gift in the allegorical short story “Tiger’s Invective.” His artistic work reached its height in the philosophical “Tale of Ho Saeng,” in which the author’s ideals are embodied in a classless Utopian society. Both short stories became part of Jehol Diary.

Pak Chi-won’s poetry about nature and philosophy is imbued with patriotism and faith in a bright future. In his literary criticism, he stressed the social and educational importance of literature.

The World Peace Council observed the 220th anniversary of Pak Chi-won’s birth in 1957.


“Pak Chi-won chakp’um chonjip.” In the series Choson kojon munhak chonjip, vols. 25 and 26. Pyongyang, 1960–61.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Pyongyang, 1955.
In the collection Vostochnyi al’manakh, fasc. 5. Moscow, 1962.


Eremenko, L. E. “Iz istorii koreiskoi literatury 2-i pol. 18 v.” In the collection Koreiskaia literatura. Moscow, 1959.
Tiagai, G. D. Obshchestvennaia mysl’ Korei v epokhu pozdnego feodalizma. Moscow, 1971.