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On National Economics and the Essays of Park Hyun-chae: Using Nativist Literature Debate in Taiwan as a Referent Point

Issue 12: On National Economics and the Essays of Park Hyun-chae: Using Nativist Literature Debate in Taiwan as a Referent Point

Proposed by YEON Gwang Seok, Postdoctoral Researcher, National Chiao Tung University


In the history of intellectual thoughts in South Korea, Park Hyun-chae is best known for his works as an economics scholar. His acclaimed On National Economics published in the 1970s has since been one of the textbooks for the progressive camp. Also, in the 1980s, he criticized the field of social science studies for its intellectual coloniality in adopting dependency theory, thus sparking an important debate on social characteristics in postwar South Korea.

However, little attention has been paid to Park Hyun-chae’s debate with the renowned literary critic Paik Nak-chung on minjung literature. During which time when Park had to confront the destabilizing post-Cold War/division system and the transformation of the history of intellectual thoughts, he was determined to uphold the proposition that “minjok = minjung” (民族=民眾). On the one hand, he expected literature to fill the gaps that social science language was unable to perform in. On the other, he pointed out the problems of modernization/colonization in the literary system. However, responses from the literary scene could not meet his expectations, and Park decided to write literature himself. Nevertheless, due to his health problem after 1990, Park was not able to really channel into literary practice.

Nonetheless, if we take a look at his entire intellectual career, Park, as an “economic critic” in the 1970s and 1980s, had left behind quite a number of essays that worth re-examining. This study takes the debate of nativist literature in Taiwan as a regional referent point, as it also happened in a similar historical condition -- neo-colonial/division system. By re-examining the essays written by Park in the 1970s and 1980s, I seek to uncover the differences between the essays and his works on economic theory, exploring the possibility of how they carry, more richly, the specificity of contemporary South Korean thoughts, one that combines minjok and minjung.