Park Kyung-ri’s Land is sometimes referred to as “a study of Japan in the form of a novel” because of how its writer’s thoughts on Japan are revealed through its characters and sometimes in the voice of the writer herself. As the setting of part one begins around the time of the Donghak Peasant Rebellion and continues through the late Joseon period, the First Sino-Japanese War, and the Russo-Japanese War, and then through the annexation of Korea and March First Independence Movement, it cannot but reflect the circumstances of Joseon and the surrounding countries, and there are many portions that would have been difficult to write without a deep understanding and personal perspective of international politics under the turbulent circumstances of the Manchurian Incident, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the world wars. Aside from Japan’s politics, the novel’s elucidations of its culture, art, character, and background are impressive in their depth and comprehensiveness. Especially as the novel approaches its conclusion it depicts more clearly than any other work the condition and national character of Korea, China, and Japan, as revealed in the daily increasing severity of this land’s deterioration under Japanese colonial rule, its comparisons of China and Japan, and of those nations with Korea. Above all, after confirming in a number of places the objectivity of the writer’s opinion and perspective and being impressed by its extensive research and again realizing that it is a treasure chest for literary research, I emphasize the need for diverse research that surpasses the limited perspective of the fields of literature, history, and so on. As the field of research on Land expands with contributions of researchers in related fields of the history of living such as sociology, Japanese studies, Chinese studies, Russian studies, International Politics, the history of independence movements, architecture, religion, and landscaping naturally expand into “Land studies.” Especially as the description intensifies toward the end of the colonial period, it is possible that Land’s discussion of Japan is the biased perspective of a particular period and society, but in a more fundamental way, and as the relationship between the two nations remains uncomfortable even in the present as a result of a number of controversial incidents, it is important to consider the “pragmatism of Japan” and “soft discernment of China” which the author wanted to adopt as a means for the Korean people to survive. It occurs to me that in today’s world, which lives as together as closely intertwined as neighbors, this is a virtue which we must not merely reference but learn with seriousness.
In addition, in composing this essay I also gained a significant number of answers to questions I had often experienced about the qualities of Japan.