The present study attempts to reveal the structure of Korean societal awareness and consciousness through translations of Japanese literature which were topics of conversation in Korean publishing circles in and around 1970. Yasunari Kawabata’s Nobel Prize award in 1968 was a huge issue that excited the whole of Korean society.
On the obverse of their defiant values of being anti-Japan, the Korean public during the 1970s maintained a cultural empathy with Japanese products in terms of sentiment. Moreover, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which even Koreans held in special regard, made it possible for Korean society to approve of a Japanese literature with a distinct Japanese color. As it turns out, rather than being treated as a seditious object that must be rightfully rejected, a ‘Japanese color’ faithful to its aesthetic consciousness was able to reveal a nostalgia dormant within. Furthermore, this nostalgia created a motivation toward a desire for the Nobel Prize. It followed the logic that if Japan was able to win it, then Korean literature, similar to Japanese literature, could amply win one as well. Thus, an unconscious confession by Korean readers could be detected, disclosing Japan to be a far-away landscape also culturally baptized and sharing in a cultural sensibility beyond the common denominator of being in the same sphere of Eastern culture.
Unlike the popular novels of Korea, Snow Country was treated as a refined masterpiece befitting a Nobel Prize, with its anti-urban and anti-industrial sentiments embellished as ‘purity’ and an ‘aesthetic consciousness’. However, in the meantime, the gaze of the 1970s, desiring love and sex, appreciated Snow Country according to its own tastes.