ABSTRACT

This paper analyzes the ‘literary trials’ of the 1960s, and the discoursesconcerned with ‘obscenity and art’ to which they gave rise. Thebackgrounds of the ‘literary trials’ are examined, together with theircharacteristics, and also the way in which the trials have changed theprevailing perception of ‘art and obscenity.’ More broadly, I consider howthe questions which were raised repeatedly by the debates on ‘art andobscenity’ have shaped attitudes toward controversial matters in Koreansociety. A variety of trials were held in the 1960s which thus came to be called ‘theera of precedents.’ It was the first time in the history of Korea that criminaltrials had been held which dealt with the alleged obscenity of cultural and artistic works. These ‘literary trials’ are worth analyzing in their own right,for the insights they provide on the meeting between the arts and the law. The trials brought a literary controversy to court, thereby making the court aforum for a “critical-legal” discussion. In addition, a social interest in andbroad understanding of ‘obscenity’ was formed, and the trials were also animportant factor in the substantial expansion of the discourse on obscenity. It should be remembered, however, that during the 1950s and 1960s,obscenity trials and the concomitant discourses occurred around the world,becoming a significant cultural phenomenon. In fact, such trials were takingplace in Korea at more or less the same time as similar prosecutions in theWest and in Japan. This paper examines how the phenomenon developed,and how it was experienced in Korean society. Remarking on the LadyChatterley’s Lover trial in England in 1960, Richard Hoggart said, “It is aphenomenon that symbolizes an aspect of our time,” and the literary trials inKorea should be seen in the same light, as a symbolic watershed. Indeed,this series of trials was a historic cultural event which most clearlydemonstrates the very dramatic political and social changes facing Koreansociety in the 1960s.

KEYWORD

the 1960s, obscenity, art, literature and the law, literary trials, Lady Chatterley’s Lover Trial, Park Yong-gu, Yu Hyun-mok, Park Seung-hun

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