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Chinese contemporary literature now a hit in South Korea

2014-06-29 16:08:26



The extraordinary life of Xu Sanguan, a famous Chinese fictional character who sells his blood over the years to support his family, will soon be adapted in South Korea as a blood merchant.

South Korea's popular actor Ha Jung-woo recently started directing and starring in a film adaptation of a renowned Chinese author Yu Hua's 1995 novel"Xu Sanguan Mai Xue Ji" or " Chronicle of a Blood Merchant".

The original story of the novel depicted Xu Sanguan's struggle with life in China in the 1950s. Now the background was transferred to the Korea peninsula with only South Korean actors and actress involved. Ha Jung-woo himself plays the role of Xu Sanguan, the poor blood merchant, while another notable Korean actress Ha Ji-won, plays the role of his wife.

It was the first film adaptation of the novel that many other directors around the world have competed to dramatize for years. Yu Hua's first novel that has been adapted to film entitled "To Live,"directed by Zhang Yimou which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1994. "The reason why Ha Jung-woo chose to adapt the novel is its popularity among Korean readers. Besides, the director also favors the work's combination of comedy and tragedy and interested in the similarity between China and South Korea culture," Jeon Hyung- Jun, professor of Chinese language and literature department in Seoul National University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The Korean edition of the novel "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" was among 100 must-read books listed by South Korea's Joongang Daily. The story was also adapted as a Korean opera early in 2003. By now, most of Yu Hua's works have been translated into Korean and have a huge following here. "Yu Hua's novel was popular in South Korea because of its focus on China's reality," said Ahn Chang-hyun, professor of culture contents department of Hanyang University. In the past, most Korean people were more interested in China's ancient culture, preferring to read history story such as "The History of the Three Kingdoms" or "Journey to the West". But now they are eager to read China's contemporary literature to know Chinese people's current thoughts and lives.

The books of Yu Hua, Mo Yan, Su Tong and other famous Chinese contemporary writers now frequently appear on Korean publishers' list and sold in most bookstores here. "For many years, we were trying to find the classical and very literary novels written by Chinese authors. It was not an easy job to find the connection between Chinese publishers and authors. However,during the past three or four years, we found out that many things are developing right now," said Michelle Nam, executive director of South Korea's largest general trade publisher Minumsa Publishing Group.

Minumsa has published Chinese writer Han Shaogong's novel " Dictionary of Ma Qiao", collected stories by Chinese Writers' Association; Mo Yan's "Frog" and other Chinese contemporary literary works in the past years, all of which have received positive response from the Korean readers, young and old.

The novel "Dictionary of Ma Qiao" is written in the form of a dictionary, collecting 115 "articles" on fictitious Maqiao village life from the perspective of a young student sent there by China's"Down to the Countryside Movement".

Minumsa said that the novel is unique because it deals with human nature, which is also the theme in the novel "Frog". "Mo Yan's 'Frog' is a story about one child fertility policy, which is very moving and humane," said Nam, "It reflects the contemporary Chinese people's story and their concerns which we' ve read in or heard in the mass media."

Not surprisingly, the sales of "Frog" rose dramatically after Mo won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012, reaching around 12, 000 copies by now.

Chinese literature gained more Korean fans after Mo won the prestigious Nobel Prize. Korean readers'tastes on Chinese literature have also been more diversified from then on, Jeon Hyung-Jun added. "We are looking for more novels written by Mo Yan and Han Shaogong. We are also looking for good writers who write philosophical topics, history and humanities. We think there are many Chinese writers who can write these topics for the young generation," said Nam.

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