From the signing of the Korean-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1882 onwards, Korean immigrant society in the United States had grown in its regional size and population, and it published newspapers and established organizations for the benefits of Korean immigrants. In the early stage of the society’s development, Korean immigrants not only maintained interactions with their home country, but also built an independent community in which they created literature—exile literature and immigrant literature. While exile literature showed particular characteristics of indigenous Korean culture, immigrant literature reflected realities of immigrant society itself. In earlier studies on literature of Korean immigrant society, exile literature has received most scholarly attention. With this being the case, there need to be more works focused on the nature and history of immigrant literature.
Focusing on various features of immigrant literature, this paper examines overseas Korean newspapers, Kongnip sinbo(the United Korean) and Sinhan minbo (the New Korea), both of which were published in United States during the early 20th century. It argues that a number of articles in the two newspapers covered events and things that happened in the Korean peninsula during the time. Those newspapers had wide coverage ranging from news and histories of many different countries to common knowledge. They also had diverse reading materials to draw readership. From the perspective of literature, both Kongnip sinbo and Sinhan minbo included traditional literary works and borrowed their expressions. As contributors and editors who studied abroad participated in the publication of Sinhan minbo, its news reports and articles became more stable and organized than before. But Sinhan minbo still relied on the traditional forms of literature while seeking to satisfy the readers’ needs for new literary styles.
A great example that shows well the coexistence and competition between the old and new literary style in Sinhan minbo is Kachinmarl Sinmoon(a newspaper of lie), which was serialized six times in the advertisement section from December, 1909 through January, 1910. Kachinmarl Sinmoon, as “a newspaper within the newspaper,” dealt with An Chunggŭn’s assassination of Ito Hirobumi(1909) and aimed at denouncing the Japanese empire and pro-Japanese Korean collaborators. In its blame for Japan’s colonization of Korea, Kachinmarl Sinmoon was not different from the other contemporary newspapers. However, it took advantage of traditional literary works for its own expression and subject matter. It also sought to reflect experiences and problems of the lives of Korean immigrants in the United States. Because Kachinmarl Sinmoon represented overseas Koreans’ various realities and offered a site in which the media and new immigrant intellectuals intersected, it was a critical form of knowledge production during Korea’s transitional period from tradition to modernity.