The study of Pyŏn Kangsoe-ka (hereafter PKSK) reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. However, several important topics in PKSK still remain provocative and unexplored. This study attempts to bring new approaches to the debates regarding how to interpret the identity of the main character Kangsoe and what the actual theme (as opposed to the surface theme, namely, lewdness) of the work is in order to clarify a number of contradictions in the PKSK not explained in extant research. Contrary to the presupposition that there should be a single consistent theme in PKSK, one can identify more than one possible theme and hear multiple voices in the work. Any work of fiction, as Bakhtin argues, represents a “multiplicity of styles” and exemplifies the idea of the “nonexistence of a one-voiced novel.” This essay argues that there was an intentional and systematic revision of PKSK by Sin Chae-hyo, who thoroughly compiled the work. Kangsoe can be seen as an alter ego of Sin Chae-hyo in that they share exceptionally high levels of self-aggrandizement, resulting mainly from the discontent that their talents were not properly appreciated. As a frustrated scholar, Sin’s escape from reality was accomplished through his devotion to p’ansori, just as Kangsoe’s only escape is his devotion to carnal desire. Kangsoe is used to betray Sin Chae-hyo’s resentment toward an absurd social system, his disdain for the petty moralism of yangban, and his unrestrained pursuit of aesthetic value in erotica. Teptŭgi and Kangsoe, as the two polemic reflections of Sin Chae-hyo’s inner conflict, betray the realism and idealism of Sin, respectively. Eventually, Sin makes the realistic version of his alter ego annihilate the idealistic version.
NOTABLE TOPICS DISCUSSED IN PKSK STUDIES
KANGSOE AND ONGNYŎ: IDENTITIES
KANGSOE AS A TRAGIC HERO : KANGSOE DESCRIBED BY HIMSELF
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN KANGSOE AND THE CHANGSŬNG
CONCLUSION: TEPTŬGI AS ANOTHER ALTER EGO OF SIN CHAE-HYO