From March 1944 to September 1948, Chunwon Kwangsoo Lee spent his later years farming in Gyunggi-do Yangjoo-goon Jingun-myun (currently known as Namyangju-shi Jingun-eup) Sareung-li. This paper examines the life and literature of Yi, who lived like a wayfarer.
The period of interest in this paper includes three phases with major changes: the last stage of Japanese occupation when the defeat of Japanese had become certain, three years after the independence (August 15, 1945~August 15, 1948), and establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea. Soon after this period, the Korean War broke out, and Chunwon was abducted to North Korea. Thus, this period in 1940s is an important time in his life.
Chunwon bought a piece of land and cows to take up farming with Park Jeong-ho, a young man who was fond of Chunwon, so that he could keep away from the worldly cares. Here he celebrated the liberation of the nation with three children. However, he was in agony as well as in joy, because of the remorse for cooperating with the Japanese government for the past few years. He decided to live a quiet life and focus on reading and observe the world, free from all ideas.
During this period, he used a rock he picked up from a stream as a pillow. On the stone pillow, he would think about Jacob from the Old Testament and hear a sigh from a tired cow. He considered the fate of cows as his, which symbolizes the remorse for his past activities.
In September 1946, he was invited to join Kwang Dong Middle school, established in Bongsun-sa Temple, as a Korean and English teacher. The principal of the school, Un-Heur, who is also a Buddhist monk and Chunwon’s third cousin, organized the appointment for Chunwon. Working as a teacher in the school would not only mean getting a job but also joining the Buddhist monastery and practicing asceticism, while shunning the world.
He came back to Sareung in 1947 and wrote a biography of Dosan An Changho, an independence fighter he respected. In 1948, he wrote an essay, the stone Pillow. In addition, he authored a short story, Dream, based on a story of Jo Shin in the History of Three Korean Kingdoms. Dream was received well by the readers. Chunwon moved back to his house in Seoul in September 1948, due to ill health.
In Sareung, Chunwon realized his dream of living a quiet and peaceful rural life, which he was not able to do in his hometown. There, he slept on a rock pillow, agonizing over his past, and listened to a cow’s sigh. It was the time for self-reflection and rumination. His life in Seoul afterwards faded out, like a “dead bird” buried in the woods in Gwang Reung. His ill health, arrest by the Special Investigation Committee for Anti-National Activities, and the war took everything away from him.