The Genbunitchi Movement and the Modernization of Korean Writing Styles, 1910–1945: Hu Shih’s Influence on Korean Literati

Feb 5, 2016 | 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Bae Gaehwa (Modern Korean Literature, Dankook University; HYI Associate)
Chair/discussant: Karen Thornber (Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Korea Institute

The genbunitchi (言文一致) movement, the unification of speech and writing, began in Korea in 1894, but ceased when Japan annexed Korea in 1910. However, the March First Movement in 1919 ignited Korean national consciousness and resumed the modernization movement of Korean writing. In this regard, Hu Shih(胡適)’s “Eight Don’t-isms” [babuzhuyi 八不主義], and his argument that literary reform should be ahead of the establishment of state language, encouraged Korean writers to spur the genbunitchi movement. Korean literati who contributed to the genbunitchi movement not only standardized the Korean language and spelling system, but also tried to establish modern Korean literature. After liberation from Japan in August 1945, both South and North Korea approved these legacies of literary reform as the standards for the state language. The genbunitchi movement, encouraged by Hu Shih, became the cornerstone for literary practice and cultural nationalism during the colonial and post-colonial era in Korea.