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Choi-Myeng-Hee (October 10, 1947 to December 11, 1998)

[Life Time] Born in 1947 in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do. After graduating from Jeonju Women's High School, she entered Jeonju National University, and she transferred to Chonbuk National University Korean Language and Literature Department and graduated. She graduated from Chonbuk National University in 1972, and she worked as a Korean language teacher at a women's high school before the whole cycle. She made her debut in 1980 with her short story "Falling Light" in the JoongAng Ilbo New Year literary novel section. In 1981, she received the attention of many people when she won the first part of her chaos in the Dong-A Ilbo Feature Novel Contest. After that, she serialized parts 2 to 5 of ``Honbul in the monthly Shintoa magazine for 7 years from 1988. She received an honorary doctorate in literature from Jeonbuk National University in 1997 after the publication of ``Honbul Volumes 1-5 in December 1996. She died on December 11, 1998, at the age of 51 this year, after writing while hiding her chronic ovarian cancer and never being able to finish her novel.

[<Unyielding Spirit> Plot] In the late 1930s, there was a village called Maean in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea, where the lower-class people lived in a cave dwelling. These people made a living by working on the land owned by the Lee family. The real power in Maean village was held by Lee's first daughter-in-law, Cheongam, who became a widow at the age of 19, just one year after marrying her husband, Lee Jun. She later married Lee Byung-ui's eldest son, Lee Gi-chae, and helped to revive the Lee family, which was declining at the time, becoming the de facto head of the Maean Lee family as well as the owner of a large reservoir that could irrigate not only the Wondeum village where the Lee family resided, but also the cave dwellings where the lower-class people lived. Cheongam created a large-scale landowner family that cultivated more than 5,000 stones of land. Although Lee Gi-chae respected and obeyed Cheongam, their relationship gradually became strained. They had a son named Kang Mo, but he fell in love with his cousin, Kang Sil, who was the granddaughter of the Lee family's eldest son. Despite marrying Heo Hyo-won, Kang Mo could not forget Kang Sil, and they did not live together for five years. Kang Mo avoided the draft and fled to Manchuria, where he fell in love with a Japanese woman named Oyuki and embezzled funds to help her. After the embezzlement was discovered, Kang Mo left Manchuria, and Oyuki followed him. Kang Mo and his cousin, Kang Tae, arrived in Manchuria and met Sim Jin-hak, with whom they had many conversations about the harsh reality of their homeland. Sim emphasized that they should not submit to Japan's oppression, even if it was severe. Meanwhile, the lower-class people in the cave dwellings sought revenge for being oppressed by the nobles. Chun Bok, one of the lower-class people, robbed Kang Sil, leading her to attempt suicide.

[<Unyielding Spirit> Artistic Significance] This is an unfinished historical novel by Choi Myung-hee that was serialized in monthly magazine "Shin Dong-a" from September 1988 to October 1995, and published in ten volumes by Hangilsa in 1996. The work was also selected as a winning entry for a 20 million won prize in a novel competition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of "Dong-a Ilbo" in 1981.

Set against the backdrop of the Japanese colonial period, this historical fiction portrays the tenacious vitality of our people and the customs of the time in a beautiful and lyrical style. Despite the difficulties of modern society, the novel vividly portrays the nobility of those who tried to preserve the yangban class society, as well as the hardships and struggles of commoners and slaves. Expanding the stage of the novel to Manchuria, it hopes for the recovery of the tragic lives of the Korean people living there and their stolen souls, which are encapsulated in the title "Honbul" (meaning the recovery of lost souls).
One of the main characteristics of this work is its thorough depiction of the customs and cultural history of the time, including the social customs, funerary rites, food, and music, through meticulous research and reconstruction alongside major events. It captures not only the essence of the authentic emotions that flow continuously through the turbulent times of our national history, but also has significant meaning as a precious language artifact comparable to Hong Myeong-hee's "Im Kkeok-jeong," a masterpiece of Korean literature.
The author is said to have meticulously collected all the vocabulary by looking up each word in the dictionary and conducting firsthand research, going through multiple revisions to use them in the most appropriate context. Such a rigorous attitude by the author sheds new light on the standard of completeness in literary works. Unfortunately, the author passed away before completing the final part of this work, and thus it remained unfinished.
According to reviews of "Honbul," it is introduced as a perpetual monument of Korean literature that awakens the Korean spirit of life and death. Through her ardent work, author Choi Myung-hee, who began her writing career in 1980, presented a higher level of Korean literature by shaping our history, life, and spirit in beautiful language, awakening the potential of the Korean people, and showcasing the beauty of our language to the utmost degree.


Korean Dictionary of Contemporary Literature,

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