Jo Jung-Rae at the Seoul International Book Fair
|Born||August 17, 1943|
|Alma mater||Dongguk University|
|Revised Romanization||Jo Jeong-rae|
Jo Jung Rae (often called "Cho Chong-Rae" in English) was born in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do, on August 17, 1943 in the Sonamsa Temple. When the Korean War broke out, Jo and his family evacuated to the South, where he was unpopular with the local children and frequently fought with them, fights he generally lost. He was interested in literature from early in life, and won competitions in elementary school. W He majored in Korean Literature at Dongguk University, and worked as a high school teacher for several years after graduation. He debuted in 1970 with the short story “A False Charge” (Numyeong) Jo Jung-Rae has devoted his entire life to literature.
His popular multi-volume novels Taebaek Mountain Range and Arirang, which have become modern classics since their publication in the 1980s, are considered the epitome of his talent. With the publication of Han River in 2002, Jo completed his trilogy of works on Korean modern history. Sales reached a record-breaking number in Korea—over 10,000,000 copies.
Jo Jung Rae is best known as the writer of the epic historical trilogy, Taebaek Mountain Range (Taebaek sanmaek, 1983-1989), Arirang, and the recent Han River (Hangang). Each is over ten volumes in length, and deals with different aspects of the turbulent Korean history in the modern age. Taebaek Mountain Range examines the five-year period between the liberation of Korea from the Japanese colonial rule (1945) to the outbreak of Korean War (1950). In order to characterize the deep ideological conflict that erupted in violence during this period, however, the writer goes back in history to the period of colonial rule as well as the last years of Joseon dynasty. With meticulous research, he reveals structural contradictions, such as those that arise from class conflict deeply embedded within Korean society, and makes it clear that Korean War resulted from intensification of such contradictions through ideology. This awareness provides the foundation from which he critiques the logical fallacy in looking at the roots of Korean division as being strictly political. Taebaek Mountain Range thus suggests that national division can only be overcome when the more fundamental structural conflicts in Korean society, politics and economy have been addressed. A prequel to Taebaek Mountain Range, Arirang deals with the colonial period.
The concern with socio-economic roots of Korean division and the search for ways to overcome this national tragedy characterize Jo Jung Rae’s shorter works of fiction as well. “Sorrow, That Shaded Place” (Han, geu geuneurui jari), “Land of Exile” (Yuhyeongui ttang), “Human Stairs” (Inganui gyedan) and “The Soul of a Barren Land” (Baktoui hon) all engage with these themes in variant ways. His earlier works, however, tend to reconstruct the space of traditional folk life and target absurdities of life in a more general fashion. “A Woman from Cheongsan” (Cheongsan daek), “The Violent Instructor” (Pongnyeok gyosa), “The Shaded Slope” (Bitaljin eumji), “The Age of Geocentrism” (Cheondongseol sidae) and “Foreign Land” (Ibang jidae) provide good examples of these tendencies.
Works in Translation
- The Human Jungle (정글만리)
- The Land of the Banished (Asia Publishers, 2012)
- How in Heaven's Name A Novel of World War Two(오 하느님)
- Playing With Fire (불놀이)
- La Chaîne des Monts Taebaek Tome 1-10 (태백산맥 1-10)
- Terre d'exil (유형의 땅)
Works in Korean (Partial)
- Taebaek Mountain Range (Taebaek sanmaek, 1983-1989)
- Han River (Hangang)
- “Sorrow, That Shaded Place” (Han, geu geuneurui jari) (1977)
- "Land of Exile” (Yuhyeongui ttang) (1981)
- “Human Stairs” (Inganui gyedan) (1982)
- “The Soul of a Barren Land” (Baktoui hon) (1983)
- “A Woman from Cheongsan” (Cheongsan daek) (1972)
- The Violent Instructor” (Pongnyeok gyosa) (1971)
- “The Shaded Slope” (Bitaljin eumji) (1973)
- “The Age of Geocentrism” (Cheondongseol sidae) (1974)
- “Foreign Land” (Ibang jidae) (1975)
- Contemporary Literature Prize (1981)
- Republic of Korea Literature Prize (1983)
- Seongok Literature Prize
- Dongguk Literature Prize
- City of Kwangju Arts Award
- Manhae Prize (2003)
- "Jo Jung-Rae" biographical PDF available at LTI Korea Library or online at: http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do# Archived 2013-09-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- Jo Jung-Rae (2012). "About the Author". Land of the Banished. Seoul: Asia Publishers. pp. 201–203. ISBN 978-8994006-24-6.
- "Jo Jung-Rae" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at: http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do# Archived 2013-09-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- Korean Writers The Novelists. Minumsa Press. 2005. p. 111.