Pak Kyongni

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Pak Kyongni
Park Kyung-ni.jpg
Korean name
Hangul 박경리
Hanja 朴景利
Revised Romanization Bak Gyeongni
McCune–Reischauer Pak Kyŏngni
Birth name
Hangul 박금이
Hanja 朴今伊
Revised Romanization Bak Geumi
McCune–Reischauer Pak Kŭmi

Pak Kyongni (This is the author's preferred Romanization per LTI Korea.[1]) (December 2, 1926 – May 5, 2008) was a prominent South Korean novelist.[2] She was born in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, and later lived in Wonju Gangwon Province. Pak made her literary debut in 1955, with Gyesan (계산, Calculations). She is, however, most well known for her 16-volume story Toji (토지, The Land), an epic saga set on the turbulent history of Korea during 19th and 20th century. It was later adapted into a movie, a television series and an opera.[3][4]

Pak Kyongni died from lung cancer at the age of 81 on May 5, 2008[3] and many literary men recollected her as a guide for their literary works and life as a writer.[5] She was posthumously awarded the country's top medal by the Culture Ministry of South Korea for her promoting South Korean arts.[6][7]


Pak Kyongni was born as the first daughter to a middle-class family in 1926 in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. Her birth name was Pak Geum-i (박금이).[8] Her father, Pak Su-yeong (박수영) married her mother at his age of fourteen, who was older than he was by 4 years. The relationship between her parents did not get on well, which deeply affected her life. Her misery started when her father left her mother right away after she was born. Later, she said that she had both sympathy and contempt toward her mother, but hatred against her father. Therefore, she was isolated in the extremely conflicting feelings and befriended books in her imaginative world.[8]

Pak married Kim Haeng-do (김행도), a clerk of the Office of Monopoly (전매부) in 1946 one year after her graduation from Jinju Girls' High school (진주고등여학교). However, her suffering did not end with her marriage. Instead, it got worse when her husband was accused of being a communist and went missing during the Korean War and eventually died in Seodaemun Prison.[9] Not only that, she lost her 3 years-old baby son in the same year. Pak became a widow with her daughter and mother for whom she had to financially support. Pak began her career as a professional writer in 1955 after a recommendation by a novelist and poet, Kim Tong-ni (김동리). Pak underwent breast cancer in the 1960s and had to raise her grandson, Wonbo after her son-in-law and a poet, Kim Chi-ha (김지하) was arrested for the accusation of being a communist in the 1970s just like her husband.[8] She had even suffered from lung cancer herself until she died.[3]


When Pak Kyongni debuted, she said "If I had been happy, I would have not begun writing."[9] Pak also said later, "I live with my mother and daughter and had to support them financially by myself. I began writing since I had hope to get away from my adversity." Her sorrowful personal life surely influenced her works, where she emphasized human dignity.

Pak started her career as a writer with the novel, Calculations (계산, Gyesan) and her early work was heavily guided by her unfortunate life. Each narrator in her novels like Time of Distrust (불신시대, Bulsin Sidae) and Time of Darkness (암흑시대, Amheuk Sidae) are often a daughter living with her mother who lost her husband and son, which was true with her own life. In her later work, The Daughters of Pharmacist Kim (김약국의 딸들, Kimyakgukui Ttaldeul), she still deals with characters who get over with their difficulties.[10] However, she got more objective point of view in that her fictional setting moved from the Korean war to everyday life and employed more various writing techniques and topics.

Pak showed the importance of human dignity in all her works. She defined human dignity as protecting the noblest thing for oneself. She criticized a tradition, a system, and authority which cause people not to protect their dignity, and also disdained people who lost their dignity because of their desires. Additionally, her works are concerned with human isolation, absolute trust in love.

Toji (The Land)[edit]

Toji (The Land) is the most famous of Pak Kyongni's novels. The epic novel was started as a serial publication in the September 1969 issue of "Contemporary Literature" (현대문학, Hyundae Munhak).[11] It took her 25 years to write.[11][12] It depicts the turbulence at the turn of the 20th century when Korean people were struggling against Japanese imperialism. It has hundreds of characters from across the Korean peninsula and follows them from the late 19th century to the early 20th century through Japan’s colonial rule to the division of the peninsula. "Kim, Gil-sang" (김길상) and "Choi, Seo-hee" (최서희), the main heroes of the novel, like other heroes in Pak’s novels, struggle to save their own dignity in the most turbulent period of Korean history. It has significant literary artistry in style, native folk language and diverse character portrayals, depicting Korea’s eventual and sadness-ridden modern history through the love of vast "Mother Earth". It is considered as a masterpiece of contemporary Korean literature.[13] It has been made into a TV series, a movie, and an opera. It has been translated into several languages including English, German, French and Japanese. It also has been included in the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.[11][13][14]


Pak Kyongni is regarded as one of the most famous and respected writers in South Korea. She opened up a new chapter in Korean literary history with her remarkable epic novel Toji and also produced 20 other high quality novels and 3 poetry collections that had a huge impact on Korean writers and readers.[15] Pak opened Toji Culture Center on the spot of her original home in Wonju, Gangwon Province, in 1999. She helped and nurture new writers in the center. Pak also served as a chairperson of the board of trustees of the Toji Culture Foundation, which was established in 1996.[4] She promoted and preserved young writers’ active literary thoughts by fostering and nurturing their creative attitudes and lifestyles.[5]


  • 1955 Calculation (계산, Gyesan)[16][17]
  • 1956 Black and Black and White and White (흑흑백백, Heukheuk baekbaek)
  • 1957 Period of Distrust (불신시대, Bulsin Sidae)
  • 1957 Missions
  • 1958 Love Song (연가, Yeonga )
  • 1958 Byeokji (벽지)
  • 1958 Time of Darkness (암흑시대, Amheuk Sidae)
  • 1959 Pyoryudo (표류도)
  • 1962 The Daughters of Pharmacist Kim (김약국의 딸들, Kimyakgukui Ttaldeul)
  • 1963 Pasi (파시)
  • 1965 The Market and War field (시장과 전장, Sijang gwa Jeonjang)
  • 1965 Green Zone (Nokjidae, 녹지대)
  • 1969–1994 Toji (토지 The Land)
  • My Mind is Lake (내 마음은 호수)
  • Blue Galaxy (푸른 은하)

Works in Translation[edit]

  • Land 1 (토지 1)
  • Markt und Krieg (시장과 전장)
  • Land 2 (토지 2)
  • Land 3 (토지 3)
  • Land 4 (토지 4)
  • Дочери аптекаря Кима (김약국의 딸들)
  • The Curse of Kim's Daughters (김약국의 딸들)
  • 土地 第1部 第1卷 (토지 1)
  • 金药局家的女儿们 (김약국의 딸들)
  • 土地 第一部 第三卷 (토지 3)
  • La Terre (토지)
  • Les filles du Pharmacien Kim (김약국의 딸들)



  1. ^ "Author Database". LTI Korea Library. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "박경리" LTI Korea Library Author Database:
  3. ^ a b c "Pak Kyongni, 81, author of Korean saga". International Herald Tribune. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d Pak Kyongni: South Korean novelist – Author whose epic novel, Toji, is regarded as one of the greatest contributions to Korean literatureThe Times (June 8, 2008) (Retrieved on July 10, 2008)
  5. ^ a b Park Soo-mee; Lee Min-a (2008-05-08). "The loss of a literary luminary". JoonAng Daily. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  6. ^ a b "Park Kyung-ni Dies at 82"The Korea Times (05-05-2008) (Retrieved on May 12, 2008)
  7. ^ "박경리 朴景利 a(1926.10.28 ~ 2008.5.5)" (in Korean). Doosan Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 2005-09-14. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  8. ^ a b c Kim Bo-gyeong (김보경) (2008-05-06). 아, 박경리‥한국문학 산맥이 무너졌다. (in Korean). Sisa Hankook. [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b Choi Jae-bong (최재봉) (2008-05-05). 박경리 타계…수난의 민족사 품은 ‘한국문학 어머니’ (in Korean). 한겨레. 
  10. ^ 박경리 朴景利 (in Korean). Empas / EncyKorea. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  11. ^ a b c Chung Ah-young: Life, Literature of Pak KyongniThe Korea Times (05-05-2008) (Retrieved on July 10, 2008)
  12. ^ Korea Times 05.07.2008
  13. ^ a b Yoon Sojung: Life and works of veteran (Retrieved on July 9, 2008)
  14. ^ Chun, Kyung-ja: Review of Pak Kyongni, Land Archived 2008-06-17 at the Wayback Machine. – Korean Studies Review 1998, no. 3 (Retrieved on July 10, 2008)
  15. ^ Pak Kyongni leaves behind masterpiece and much more Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine. – Korean Women's Development Institute (Retrieved on July 10, 2008)
  16. ^ Kim Gyu-hwan (김규환) (2008-05-06). "Novelist Pak Kyongni died: The work world (소설가 박경리 타계: 작품 세계)" (in Korean). Seoul Shinmun. 
  17. ^ JOINS | 아시아 첫 인터넷 신문