Society / Culture
Giant of Korean Literature
Chairman Kim Jong Il once highly praised Jo Ryong Chul when he saw his opera Dream at the Red Mansion. Saying that each of the lyrics of the opera was an exquisite combination of gem-like vocabulary, he pronounced Jo Ryong Chul a literary giant and pride of the nation.
As writer Jo left a great deal of cultural treasure in his life. He produced more than 100 songs of the enlightenment period, wrote many songs during the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950–July 1953) such as Song of National Defence, Off We Go, Brindled Ox and The 2 000-ri Amnok River, created scripts of revolutionary operas, plays, films and music and dance epic plays, and wrote a large number of lyrics and poems. In total his writings number as many as 1 000 pieces of diversified kinds. Typical of them were the script and lyrics of Dream at the Red Mansion.
Born in November 1913 when Korea was under the military occupation of the Japanese imperialists he hoped to become a man of literature while going to school. Since his lyric Song of Seoul won a prize contest sponsored by the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper in 1933 he wrote many songs and poems. He started his career by creating ballads. Later he wrote in an article referring to the fact, “When the Japanese imperialists were enforcing the policy of stamping out Korea’s national culture, I was anxious to implant our nation’s inherent sentiment and our bitter sorrow over the statelessness in songs that easily found their way into the general public. I thought hard how to realize my desire. Now I turned to folk music, for I knew it contains the inherent sentiment of our nation. Indeed, the heritage of our folk music is a treasure house of our national music, the diversified tones and forms of our national lyrics as well as the melody and rhythm.”
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