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The Korea Now Podcast

Aug 16, 2020

This episode of the Korea Now podcast features an interview that Jed Lea-Henry conducted with Janet Yoon-sun Lee. They speak about the Chosŏn-era's ‘Tale of Chunhyang,’ why this story was so popular at the time and why it remains so today, the portrayal of social stratification within this novel, the rebellious message embedded in the text, the various different source texts that exist for this story, the two key English translations that were done by the now-famous Western Missionaries, Horace Allen and James Gale, how these translations changed and reinvented important aspects of the tale in the hopes of engaging Western readers with Korean culture, and indeed how they reinvented Korean cultural identity through their translations into English.

Janet Yoon-sun Lee is an assistant professor of Korean Literature at Keimyung University in South Korea, specializing in gender and science/medicine in the Chosŏn tradition. She received her M.A. degree at Columbia University and Ph.D. degree from University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation concerns the development of the literary motif of “love-sickness” (sangsa pyŏng) in late Chosŏn narratives, and it contends that love tales reveal the complex negotiations between the body and the mind, gender ideals and sexual desire, and romantic love and Confucian ideology. Her scholarly interests are focused on women’s medical/scientific knowledge and writing practice from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.

*** Janet Lee’s article ‘"The Tale of Chunhyang" as Translated by Western Missionaries’ (

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