Shin Seokcho (1909-1975) was a modern Korean poet who was known to attempt successfully to promote variation on modern Korean poetry from Korean classical poetry. His poems are criticized based on dichotomy influence theory: the one was from traditional Asian literature, and the other was from a French symbolistic poet, Paul Valéry. In the academic field of Modern Korean Literature, there are a number of scholars who perceive Shin Seokcho's poems were mainly influenced by Paul Valéry. But there are also others who believe his poems were composed based on his style of elegance and Korean ideology of pung ru (風流) which was built upon the ideology of Lao zi.
Kim Hyojung argues in his paper that Shin Seokcho's poems with the dancing theme were mostly influenced by Paul Valéry, and as a piece of evidence, he compares the differences and similarities between Shin Seokcho's "The Dancing Goddess" to Paul Valéry's "Les vaines danseuses." In this paper, I attempt to inquire upon his argument by comparing "The Dancing Goddess" with "Les vaines danseuses," and early Chinese poetic exposition with the theme of 'the encounter with the goddess,' such as "The Poetic Exposition on Gao-tang" and "The Goddess" by Song Yu, and "The Goddess of the Luo" by Cao Zhi.
It is possible to perceive "The Dancing Goddess" was influenced by "Les vaines danseuses" since there are a few similar poetic expressions. But "The Dancing Goddess" is a metaphor of the goddess descent, a union between the goddess and the speaker in the poem, their embarkment on an enchanted place, and their separation. Thus it depicts Taoistic poetic sentiment. Moreover, it could be even connoting about the tradition of an ancient goddess worship. The theme of union between a man and the goddess is well conveyed in "The Poetic Exposition on Gao-tang" and "The Goddess of the Luo." Furthermore, I could find similarities between "The Dancing Goddess," "The Goddess," and "The Goddess of the Luo" on descriptive details of the goddesses' images and the way goddesses and the speakers in the poems responded to each other. In addition, the period and the region of these poets, Song Yu, Cao Zhi, and Shin Seokcho, lived were different, but there were common elements on their political and social environments. Therefore they make me wonder about their motives in composing the goddess theme poetry.
Why did they compose the poems with the theme of 'the encounter with the goddess' or 'the goddess descent'? For example, Shin Seokcho composed "The Dancing Goddess" between 1933-1938, which was the period Korea was under Japanese occupation, thus Koreans were suffocating from Japanese oppressions. The possible reason could be the poet's longing to retreat to an enchanted world which might have brought him to haven from the wretched reality.
Then what does the goddess descent mean? As in "The Poetic Exposition in Gao-tang," the king consummating with the goddess meant that he was granted with the special authority. This is because the goddess supposed to possess the special power. The other reason why the goddess descent is considerable is because she can lead the poet into a wonderland. "The Dancing Goddess" by Shin Seokcho is a very meaningful piece of work because it not only illustrates Taoistic influence but also the tradition of an ancient goddess worship.