Korean modernism supplanted realism as the dominant trend in literature with the demise of the Korean Artist’s Proletariat Federation (KAPF) in the early 1930s. There is in Korean literary modernism a strong sense of the belatedness that is found in many aspects of colonial modernity, and this perhaps explains why characteristic writings (in both prose and verse) were less the critique of modernity found in western high modernism than an expression of a “will to modernity” that included a strong desire to move away from traditional conventions, especially those governing art and morality. This article will discuss the critique of traditional morality and aesthetics as found in the writings of Yi Hyosŏk, one of Korea’s better known modernists. In mounting his modernist critique of the conservative Confucian morality that had governed social interaction in Korea for 500 years, Yi used a pronounced eroticism in his works and produced sexually liberated female (often femme fatale) characters who are not morally conflicted in the use of their sexuality for pleasure or power, a stance I am calling antimorality.
II. KOREAN LITERARY MODERNISM
III. YI HYOSŎK’S MODERNISM : EROTICISM AND ANTI-MORALITY