Murder, jealousy and lust

By Claire Lee

The Korea Herald, LTI Korea jointly publish book series of classic Korean literature

  • Published : Dec 2, 2013 - 20:24
  • Updated : Dec 5, 2013 - 10:45

“Korean Classic Stories,” a five-volume series consisting of works of classic Korean literature, is a joint project of The Korea Herald and the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. (Seoul Selection)

There isn’t much depiction of filial love and Confucian integrity. Instead, expect to read about murder, tragic love stories, and wars.

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, The Korea Herald, in partnership with Literature Translation Institute of Korea, has published a five-volume series consisting of classic Korean literature.

The series, titled "Korean Classic Stories," was organized to introduce works of classic literature that are relatively unknown to readers at home and abroad. The titles of the volumes are: “Avengers & Artists,” “Confucians in Love,” “War & Exile,” “All Walks of Life” and “Lives of Women.”

The stories included in the series are nothing like the nation’s most famous traditional tales, such as “Simcheongjeon,” a story of a filial daughter who is devoted to restoring the sight of her blind father, or “Chunhyangjeon,” the famous story of a gisaeng’s daughter who is rewarded for staying faithful to her husband after being imprisoned for refusing to be a governor’s mistress.

Instead, readers will discover Joseon scholar Yi Deok-mu’s (1741-1793) “The Tale of Eun-ae” in volume 1 is based on the true story of a young wife killing an old woman by repeatedly stabbing her for spreading false rumors about her virginity.

Meanwhile, “The Tale of Sim Saeng,” included in volume 2, is a traditional Korean love story that meets no happy ending. It deals with a young aristocrat who falls for a lower-class woman. The couple faces a tragic fate when the man’s parents discover their relationship.

“The Widow,” featured in the volume titled “Lives of Women,” is about a high-ranking minister who makes an unusual and difficult decision for his young, widowed daughter, at a time when young widows of aristocratic households were expected not to marry again for the rest of their lives.

The stories were selected and complied by Kim Hung-gyu, who has been a long-time researcher of Korea’s traditional literature, and were translated by three translators: Kevin O’Rourke, Kim Jung-eun and Ally Hwang.

The series, published in November, is to be available for purchase in bookstores in Korea and overseas as well as online, and will be distributed to educational and cultural institutions. It is currently available for purchase online at

By Claire Lee (