Yi Kwang-Su

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Yi Kwang-Su


(pseudonym, Ch’unwon). Born Feb. 22, 1892, in Chongju; died 1951 (?). Korean writer and ideologist of bourgeois nationalism.

Yi Kwang-su studied at the University of Wasaeda in Tokyo (1915-19). With Ch’oe Nam-son he headed a movement for the renaissance of Korean culture, working on the first literary magazines, Sonyon and Ch’ongch’un, and holding executive posts during the 1920’s and 1930’s on the bourgeois newspapers Ton’ga Ilbo and Choson Ilbo.

In 1939, Yi Kwang-su began to serve the Japanese government and moved to South Korea in 1945. He was reported missing at the beginning of the Korean War of 1950–53.

In his early journalistic works (1908-18), Yi Kwang-su attacked the feudal ethic. His first short stories were written in an enlightenment spirit, and his novels (The Heartless, 1917, and The Pioneer, 1918) set the course for modern Korean prose. His historical novels The True Story of King Tanjong (1928-29), Yi Sun-Shin (1931-32), and The Soil (1932-33) are imbued with nationalistic ideas. A Christian world view is reflected in the novel The Revival (1924-25) and a Buddhist perception in Prince Maui (1926-27), King Sejong the Great (1940), and Saint Won-hyo (1941-42). Yi Kwang-su also wrote the autobiographical novels His Autobiography (1936-37) and I (1947) and the novella My Confession (1948).

Yi Kwang-su conducted a bitter polemic with the Korean Proletariat Artists’ Union. The Korean revolutionary movement is distorted in the novella The Revolutionary’s Wife (1930). The writer’s aesthetic views found expression in numerous articles of literary criticism.


Yi Kwang-su chonjip, vols. 1–20. Seoul, 1964.


Eremenko, L., and V. Ivanova. Koreiskaia literatura. Moscow, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In the beginning of 1917, the daily newspaper Maeilshinbo started to publish the first Korean serial novel, titled "Mujong," by literary giant Choonwon Yi Kwang-su.
Thus, in 2017, there has been several commemorative seminars on "Mujong" in South Korea, North Korea,China and Japan, and so far, 14 papers have been presented in various symposiums this year, according to the Yi Kwang-su Research Center.
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Under Japanese rule, however, Korea's writers turned to novels and short stories, with Yi Kwang-su's The Heartless (1917) generally seen as the key book.
A Western reader can start with The Soil, another novel by Yi Kwang-su first published as a serial in 1932.
One of the pioneers of modern Korean literature, Yi Kwang-Su (1892- 1950) was the author of the popular serialized novel Mujong (The Heartless).